Otay Mesa San Diego Police
An image from Sheriff’s video released of the Feb. 19 fatal shooting of Mizael Corrales, suspected of auto theft. Photo credit: Screen shot, @sdsheriff, via YouTube

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has cleared 18 law enforcement officers of criminal liability in 10 separate police shootings, seven of them fatal, officials said Friday.

The shootings date from May 2020 to February of this year; six involve officers from the San Diego Police Department, three from the Escondido police and one from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

A National City officer was part of one of the SDPD incidents.

Four of the San Diego shootings proved fatal, as did two of the Escondido shootings and the Sheriff’s shooting.

The potentially controversial announcement came early Friday afternoon on the eve of what could be an extended holiday period for many observers. Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum have termed such timed releases a “Friday news dump.”

Three of the incidents, officials said, involved “suicide by cop.” Video evidence of all 10 shootings has been released by the individual law enforcement agencies.

Among the shootings reviewed, according to the office of District Attorney Summer Stephan, were:

May 29, 2020

– Fatal shooting of Ronnie Kong, 32, in City Heights. Police were summoned that afternoon after Kong’s neighbor, Juan Gudino Lopez, 62, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds. When police tried to talk to Kong, they allege he came out of his apartment with a handgun in his waistband. Three San Diego officers, Andrew Campbell, Christopher Luth and Tony Maraschiello, opened fire, killing Kong at the scene. The District Attorney’s Office said Kong, already suspected in Lopez’s death, refused to obey orders to not reach for his gun, then pointed it at the officers.

June 19, 2020

– Non-fatal shooting of Rosendo Quezada in Escondido. After responding to a call that Quezada was outside his estranged wife’s home in violation of a restraining order, Escondido Officer Timothy Hamilton encountered Quezada near the intersection of Broadway and Washington Avenue. Police said Quezada got out of his car clutching a crowbar and charged, prompting Hamilton to shoot. Body camera footage captured Quezada saying something to the effect of “Just kill me, I want to die.” The suspect later pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and attempted burglary and was sentenced to almost four years in state prison. The DA’s review found Quezada “purposely threatened the officer in order to make the officer shoot him.”

June 27, 2020

– Fatal shooting of Leonardo Ibarra, 25, in downtown San Diego. Police said Ibarra was suspected of a robbery when he was found walking on Sixth Avenue. Two San Diego officers, Jonathan Lucas and Tevar Zaki, approached him in order to arrest him, but after identifying themselves as police, Ibarra continued walking. He then pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at the officers, prompting them to shoot. Ibarra died in a hospital two days later. The DA’s review states that Ibarra pointed a loaded weapon at the officers, who were justified in opening fire.

July 5, 2020

– Non-fatal shooting of Keith Bergman in an underground port at San Diego police headquarters. Bergman had been arrested that day and transported to the complex in a police cruiser. While inside the vehicle, he slipped out of his handcuffs, broke a partition between the back and front seats and took a gun from an officer’s bag. Multiple officers surrounded the vehicle. When Bergman fired a single shot through the rear window of the vehicle, officers opened fire, striking him in the upper body. He was shot again after trying to open the cruiser’s door. The felon pleaded guilty to assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic firearm and was sentenced last year to 10 years in state prison. The DA’s review said Officers Timothy Arreola, Michael Rodriguez and Paul Yi reasonably feared for their safety after Bergman fired through the window.

Oct. 14, 2020

– Non-fatal shooting of Richard Young in Rancho Peñasquitos. Young’s wife called a dispatcher, who could hear over the phone that Young sought to commit “suicide by cop.” When San Diego officers arrived, the man pulled a gun and pointed it at them, prompting Officer Timothy Breck to shoot Young once in the upper body. The DA’s review states the threat Young posed had to be “instantly confronted” and “less lethal alternatives were not feasible or safe” against the immediate threat from Young.

April 12, 2021

– Fatal shooting of Christopher Marquez, 36, at San Diego High School. Police say Marquez was wanted for shooting and wounding a bounty hunter, then shooting at National City police officers weeks later. When police found him, a chase ensued in a car driven by Marquez’s girlfriend. During the high-speed pursuit, Marquez shot at officers, and National City Officer Robert Rude fired one shot in response. The suspect and his girlfriend then hid in a dumpster on the high school grounds and at one point, police believed Marquez was going to shoot the woman, the DA’s Office said. Two San Diego officers, Brandon Gibson and Brandon Jordan, shot and killed Marquez. The DA’s review states Officer Rude shot at Marquez in legal self-defense and that the two SDPD officers reasonably determined Marquez would not surrender and was a threat to his girlfriend.

Sept. 17, 2021

– Fatal shooting of Jonathan Carroll, 38, in Escondido. Police were called regarding reports of a man who had shot someone. After determining Carroll was the shooter, police went to his home, and Carroll fled in a car. After crashing the car, Carroll exited the vehicle while holding a gun and turned towards Escondido Officer Chandler Hoppal, who fired a dozen rounds. Carroll, struck three times, died at a hospital. The DA’s review states that given the prior shooting and Carroll being armed, it was reasonable to believe he intended to shoot Hoppal.

Dec. 26, 2021

– Fatal shooting of Roberto Cazares, 39, in Escondido. Police said Cazares was a suspect in a Vista murder when he was approached by officers. The DA’s review states that he drove towards officers, then led them on a pursuit across North County. After his car became disabled, he got out and began shooting at officers. Cazares was shot by two Escondido officers publicly identified only by their last names, Armenta and Velasquez. The DA’s review states that Cazares’ status as a murder suspect who opened fire on the officers justified the use of lethal force.

March 30, 2022

– Fatal shooting of Andrew Farnham, 60, in San Carlos. Police said Farnham called police and told them “his son” wanted to commit suicide. When police arrived, Farnham pointed a gun, later discovered to be a BB gun, at his head and told officers to shoot him. He then pointed the gun at officers and was shot by SDPD Sgt. Zachary Pfannenstiel. The DA’s review states that the BB gun was a replica of a real firearm and it was reasonable to believe that Farnham posed a threat to the officer and others.

Feb. 19, 2022

– Fatal shooting of Mizael Corrales, 31, in Otay Mesa. Corrales sat behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle at a strip mall, authorities said. When approached by sheriff’s deputies, Corrales backed up the vehicle and refused to get out. He then drove forward toward Sheriff’s Detective Anthony Garcia and others, prompting Garcia to fire, prosecutors said. The DA’s review states Garcia reasonably believed he and other deputies were in danger. Corrales’ family has signaled their intent to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

City News Service and staff reports


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Ellen Bullock