2 Shootings by Deputies Are Ruled Justifiable

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Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury concluded Tuesday that two separate, nonfatal shootings by Ventura County sheriff's deputies earlier this year were justified as self-defense.

In unrelated opinions issued Tuesday, Bradbury determined that Sheriff's Deputy Michael Hasty "acted reasonably" in shooting Jesse Gomez on Feb. 26 because Hasty feared for his life, and that Deputy Janice Kennedy was "engaged in a struggle" with Gary Davidson when the officer shot him last May.

Both men sustained major injuries.

Gomez, a then 20-year-old alleged gang member from Fillmore, suffered critical injuries when he was shot by Hasty after a melee between rival street gangs in Fillmore, authorities said. Gomez was shot in the face as he ran toward Hasty with a gun in his hand, the report concluded.

Witnesses, however, provided investigators with varying accounts about whether Hasty identified himself as a law enforcement officer and whether Gomez pointed the gun at Hasty before the shooting, the report said.

Hasty told investigators that Gomez had a gun and had fired into a crowd before running up D Street toward Hasty, the report said. Other witnesses said they heard Hasty identify himself as a deputy as Gomez ran toward him and that Gomez pointed the gun at Hasty.

But a 17-year-old girl who said she was driving down D Street in Fillmore when the gang fight broke out told investigators that Gomez "was running with his gun pointed down toward the ground" when Hasty's shot rang out, the report said.

The Gomez family refused to cooperate with district attorney's office investigators looking into the shooting, Bradbury said. The family filed a $36.1-million claim June 24 against Ventura County.

The claim seeks $20 million in general damages, $10 million in future medical expenses, $5 million in exemplary damages, $1 million for loss of earnings, and $150,000 in current medical expenses.

Gomez suffered a "severe disabling head injury from (a) bullet into (Gomez's) brain, with removal of portion of brain," the claim states. Gomez still suffers from multiple disabilities, including the ability to function mentally, memory loss and loss of some bodily functions, the claim contends.

Santa Barbara attorney Robert S. Schurmer, who filed the claim on behalf of the Gomez family, did not return telephone calls Tuesday. Gomez was released March 15 from Ventura County Medical Center, a hospital official said.

The Board of Supervisors has 45 days from June 24 to respond to the claim or it is automatically rejected, said Frank Sieh, litigation supervisor for the county counsel's office.

In the inquiry into the Davidson shooting, which occurred May 28 in a wooded area off Encino Drive near Ojai, Kennedy told investigators Davidson refused to pull over when she attempted to stop him for numerous outstanding warrants. Authorities cited four warrants, including two counts of being under the influence of drugs, and one count each of hit-and-run and contempt of court.

Davidson then abandoned his car and fled into the woods, with Kennedy in pursuit, investigators said. Davidson "was subsequently shot while engaged in a struggle with Deputy Kennedy at a point in time when she had her gun drawn," the report said.

"Another deputy sheriff and eyewitness reported that Davidson appeared to be winning the struggle at the time he was shot," the district attorney's office concluded.

Davidson, 24, of Ojai suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest. He was treated at Ojai Community Hospital and later released, hospital officials said.

Bradbury said there is not enough evidence to proceed with any criminal charges against Gomez, who had been arrested for attempted murder. Charges against Davidson, however, may be filed when a continuing investigation is completed, the district attorney said.

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