Video shows officer fatally shooting man outside H.B. store; police chief defends actions

A man was fatally wounded in an officer-involved shooting that was captured on video outside a 7-Eleven in Huntington Beach on Friday morning.

An officer contacted the man at 9:30 a.m. outside the store at 6012 Edinger Ave. and an altercation occurred that led to the shooting, said police spokeswoman Angela Bennett.

The officer was not on a dispatched call, and it isn’t clear why he approached the man, according to police.

The man, who has not been identified, was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange. He was pronounced dead at 10:13 a.m., according to the Orange County coroner’s office.

Police Chief Robert Handy told reporters at the shooting scene Friday evening that the man wouldn’t obey any of the officer’s commands. As the incident escalated and became violent, the officer used his Taser stun gun, but it wasn’t effective, Handy said.

A video taken just before the shooting and later posted on social media shows the man and the officer struggling on the ground next to a parked car. The man appears to pull an item off the officer’s utility belt. It isn’t clear what the man grabbed.

Another video shows six shots being fired, causing the man to convulse and stumble. A seventh shot was fired and the man collapsed on his side against the business.

Handy said a bystander suffered a minor injury from what he believed was a shard of glass.

Huntington Beach police said in a statement that the videos show small portions of the confrontation and “should not be taken out of context.”

“The suspect was resisting and clearly the officer was defending himself and trying to take the suspect into custody,” Handy told reporters. “Just because the person didn't have a weapon, if he's struggling with that officer and actively assaulting that officer and trying to take his weapon away, trying to take equipment away from his belt that can harm him — he has every right and every responsibility and we train them to defend themselves with lethal force.”

The officer, who has been with the department 2½ years, was placed on administrative leave Friday. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will investigate the case, as is typical for officer-involved shootings in Huntington Beach.

The officer had not been interviewed by Friday evening, Handy said, citing a California law that allows officers to “calm down, adjust and get representation” before delivering testimony.

The officer was equipped with a body camera, but Handy didn’t know whether it was turned on, he said.

Nearby Marina High School was locked down briefly Friday morning as a precaution following the shooting. Shortly after noon students began leaving campus for lunch, pausing to watch as investigators conferred in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven.

Some students said they left school after the lockdown was lifted because they were too disturbed by the shooting to return to class.

"That was actually basically seeing a person die. It's not like the movies," student Carmella Marshall said. "It's really real."

Customers who typically frequent the 7-Eleven stood in a nearby parking lot discussing the events.

“I have friends that work in there,” said Huntington Beach resident Wayne Mitchell. “I hope they’re OK.”

The parking lot around the store and a portion of Edinger Avenue near Springdale Street was taped off as police investigated the scene.

This is the seventh officer-involved shooting in Huntington Beach this year — a total that exceeds any other entire year this decade, according to department archives. It is the second such shooting this year in which a person was killed.

It comes on the heels of an officer-involved shooting Sept. 7 that left a suspect and two Huntington Beach officers wounded.

The other shootings this year before Friday’s:

  • Sept. 7: Garrett Meyer, 29, of Huntington Beach was wounded by police gunfire in the 2000 block of Delaware Street after officers responded to a report of a man running around slashing tires, police said. Authorities allege the man confronted the officers with a knife and a shooting occurred. Two officers suffered gunshot wounds resulting from “friendly fire” among officers, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators. Meyer was arrested Sept. 15 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
  • March 19: A man suffered non-life-threatening injuries when shot by officers who contacted a man and a woman in a car near Beacon Hill Lane and Lawn Haven Drive, authorities said. The woman was arrested on outstanding warrants in connection with theft and drug charges.
  • March 9: Steven Schiltz, 29, was shot and killed by police on a crowded soccer field in the Huntington Central Park Sports Complex on Goldenwest Street. Police and a witness said he had chased children and others with a baseball bat and a broken bottle. Schiltz’s mother, Angela Hernandez, has alleged police used excessive force.

In a 25-hour span in January, the Police Department had three officer-involved shootings:

  • Jan. 9, a man who reportedly was armed with a knife was wounded after being shot by police at the Huntington By-the-Sea RV Resort on Newland Street.
  • A few hours after that, police fired shots as they were pursuing two men and two juveniles who were later arrested on suspicion of trying to break into a business that once housed a marijuana dispensary in the 17500 block of Griffin Lane. No one was injured.
  • Jan. 8, a dog was shot and killed by police after it bit an officer while its owner was being arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, police said.

Huntington Beach police typically have had one or two officer-involved shootings each year since 2011, records show.

Officer Jennifer Marlatt told the Daily Pilot in January that Huntington Beach officers are permitted to use their guns in defense of their own lives or the lives of others.

“It’s the officer’s perception of the situation,” Marlatt said at the time. “If the officer thought his life was in danger or someone else’s life was in danger, he could use deadly force.”

Peter Hanink, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Irvine who is studying the use of deadly force by police departments, told the Pilot earlier this year that the number of officer-involved shootings in a city the size of Huntington Beach is noteworthy. Huntington Beach is Orange County’s fourth-largest city, with a population of about 195,000, according to 2016 data from Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Demographic Research.

The number is “significantly more than you would expect given the population and given the general demographics of Huntington Beach,” Hanink said. “It’s not an environment with terribly high crime rates.”

KTLA contributed to this report.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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UPDATES:

11:35 a.m. Sept. 23: This article was updated with additional details.

10:15 a.m. Sept. 23: This article was updated with the police chief’s comments and other details.

1:50 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

12:25 p.m.: This article was updated with news of the man’s death.

This article was originally published at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 22.

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