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Costa Mesa officer who shot suspect twice during 7-Eleven altercation cleared by D.A.

Surveillance and body camera footage shows a CMPD police officer shooting Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua on March 11, 2021.
(Courtesy of the Orange County district attorney’s office)

A Costa Mesa police officer who shot a suspect during a bloody altercation at a 7-Eleven store in 2021 has been cleared following an investigation by the Orange County district attorney’s office, which determined her actions were reasonable and justified.

Prosecutors on Thursday released the findings of a report that found CMPD officer Eloísa Peralta was not criminally culpable for shooting at then-28-year-old Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua three times, striking him twice, in the upper abdomen and in the stomach, after he’d stabbed a store clerk during a fight.

Both Tamayo Paniagua and the victim were transported to area hospitals for treatment of injuries. The unnamed victim — with whom Peralta had been acquainted while working night shifts for CMPD, according to the report — was treated for stab wounds to the stomach area and buttocks and sustained minor cuts and a chipped tooth.

A surveillance camera and police body camera show the moment Officer Eloisa Peralta shot Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua in 2021.
A surveillance camera and police body camera show the moment Officer Eloisa Peralta shot Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua in 2021.
(Courtesy of the Orange County district attorney’s office)

Tamayo Paniagua was treated for his gunshot wounds, although no mention is made in the report whether he sustained any injuries during the altercation. The district attorney’s report, which includes a link to video footage of the incident, indicates two knives were collected from the scene.

Prosecutors initially charged Tamayo Paniagua with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, but a jury on April 14 delivered a lesser charge, finding him guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter along with the original assault charge, in addition to felony enhancements related to personal use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury.

In the investigation, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan Clavecilla, of the agency’s Special Prosecutions Unit, described how the incident unfolded on March 11, 2021, when CMPD officers responded to the 7-Eleven at 2244 Fairview Road in Costa Mesa at 4:30 a.m.

Although police described the incident in a March 2021 news release as a commercial robbery involving a suspect armed with a knife, the June 22 district attorney’s report said the call came into CMPD as a “fight in progress” and explained Peralta “was aware that 24-hour convenience stores, especially those close to freeways, are prone to robberies.”

One of three first responders, Peralta initially approached the store with a taser, the report indicated, but switched to her Sig Sauer, model P320 semiautomatic handgun after a witness told her he saw blood inside the store, believing she may need lethal force, prosecutors explained.

“As Officer Peralta opened the door, she heard someone screaming for what she believed to be for help,” the report said. “When she looked behind the counter, she saw a man she did not recognize, covered in blood.”

Peralta reportedly gave seven verbal commands for Tamayo Paniagua, seen standing over the clerk with a knife, to drop his weapon. However, the suspect failed to comply and continued to kick the victim, stabbing him at least one time in her presence as he lay screaming in pain.

“In addition to fearing for [the] victim, who she knew had a son and wife, Officer Peralta feared for her own life, as she is a single mother,” prosecutors wrote.

A jury Thursday found 29-year-old Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua — shot during a March 2021 convenience store altercation believed to be a robbery — guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter but not attempted murder.

She fired once but missed, striking a store window before firing two more times at Tamaya Paniagua. After being stuck, he dropped the knife but failed to put his hands up. Two more officers eventually handcuffed him.

Investigators ultimately determined the officer “was justified in believing that Tamayo posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to herself and the victim … mainly based on the conduct of Tamayo leading up to the shooting,” according to the report.

“Officer Peralta did not commit a crime,” Clavecilla concluded. “To the contrary, she carried out her duties as a peace officer in a reasonable and justifiable manner.”

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