OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506), today released a report on Brandon Lopez’s death in Santa Ana, California, on September 28, 2021, involving the Anaheim Police Department. The report is part of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing efforts to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement practices. The report provides a detailed analysis of the incident and outlines DOJ’s findings. After a thorough investigation, DOJ concluded that criminal charges were not appropriate in this case. However, DOJ recognizes that important lessons remain to be learned from this incident. As required by AB 1506, the Attorney General has issued specific policy and practice recommendations related to the incident.
“The loss of life is always a tragedy. We understand that this incident was difficult for everyone involved, including the family of Mr. Lopez, law enforcement, and the community at large,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We hope that this report will provide some clarity and help us move forward together towards a safer, more just California. The California Department of Justice remains committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that our justice system is fair, transparent, and accountable to all Californians.”
On September 28, 2021, APD officers responded to a call regarding reports of a stolen vehicle by Mr. Lopez. After a standoff with APD and Santa Ana Police Department, Mr. Lopez was fatally shot at around 10:00 pm. Under AB 1506, which requires DOJ to investigate all incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state, DOJ conducted a thorough investigation into this incident and concluded that the evidence does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officers involved acted without the intent to defend themselves and others from what they reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the officers. As such, no further action will be taken in this case. As part of its investigation, DOJ has identified several policy recommendations that it believes will help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
These recommendations include:
- De-escalation and Use of Flash Bangs and Chemical Agents: Given the circumstances and outcome, DOJ recommends that APD examine whether it is necessary to create further guidelines, criteria, and training regarding whether and when steps to potentially initiate a confrontation, in what may be an otherwise controlled scene, are appropriate and permitted.
- Body Worn Cameras: DOJ encourages APD to ensure that personnel adhere to APD policy and that their devices are in good working order before entering service. DOJ also recommends that APD include a contingency plan for how officers should proceed when they realize their BWC equipment may malfunction in the field.
- Use of Force “Less-Lethal” Munitions: DOJ recommends that APD review the evidence, take appropriate personnel action (if warranted) towards the officers involved in authorizing and deploying additional force towards Mr. Lopez, and provide guidance and training on whether and when the use of such munitions is an acceptable use of force.
- Duty to Render Aid: DOJ recommends that APD evaluate any training on this requirement, or develop such training, to provide officers specific guidance on determining when officer safety is no longer a concern so that officers can more promptly provide medical care. This particular incident could serve as an example scenario for assessing the extent of any risk to officer safety. In addition, the DOJ recommends that APD develop policies and training on providing a coordinated approach to rendering medical aid.
- Officer Training and Tactics: DOJ recommends that APD review this incident and determine whether there needs to be additional training or consideration given to establishing more precise sight lines when confronting barricaded suspects.
- DOJ believes these policy recommendations will help improve public safety while promoting trust and accountability in our justice system.
A copy of the report can be found here.