The Orange County District Attorney Office has exonerated two Laguna Beach police officers of criminal negligence in the shooting deaths in April of a Mission Viejo couple at the Montage Resort & Spa.
Police Chief Michael Sellers was notified by the district attorney’s office in a one-page letter dated Oct. 24 that the evidence does not support a finding of criminal culpability on the part of Sgt. George Ramos and Officer Jason Farris in the fatal shooting of Kevin and Joni Lynn Park.
“We were pleased with the conclusion reached by the district attorney, but we were not surprised, based on what we knew,” City Manager Ken Frank said.
The city will now conduct its own investigation of the incident.
“They gave us seven CDs of their investigation, which we will use in our internal investigation,” Frank said.
Investigations of all Laguna Beach officer-involved shootings are conducted by the district attorney’s office. The letter, signed by Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy, said that after a thorough review of the facts and the applicable law in the case, the office concluded that the shooting of the Parks ‘was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances that existed at that time."
The Parks died after police fired into a room at the posh Montage Resort where they had spent the previous night with their children. The children were not present at the shooting, which shocked a community where violent death other than in traffic accidents is a rarity.
Police had been called early that tumultuous Sunday morning to the resort by hotel security personnel to quell possible domestic violence in one of the hotel rooms.
Department spokesman Sgt. Jason Kravetz said that a call was placed to police from hotel security at about 7:40 a.m., reporting a dispute in one of the rooms.
“Three officers and a sergeant responded to the call,” Kravetz said that afternoon. “While they were on their way, we began getting 911 calls from the public saying a crazy, naked woman was running around outside the hotel, giving us different locations.
“Hotel security called again and confirmed that a woman was running around the grounds with a gun and alluding to the previous call. The officers arrived and found her pretty fast."
They took up positions around the room near the location where witnesses placed the woman and tried to calm the situation, to no avail, Kravetz said.
Police said the couple were each brandishing the gun from inside the room. Nine minutes after the first “911" call to police, the couple were dead in a hail of police bullets. Kevin Park had been one of the “911" callers, police records later revealed.
As soon as shots were fired, the District Attorney’ office was contacted to make an independent investigation, Kravetz said.
According to the letter, the investigation was conducted by the district attorney’s Officer Involved Incident Investigation Team, which forwarded its findings to the Homicide Unit for review.
The investigation, according to Gundy, included a review of materials, consisting of interviews with the involved individuals and law enforcement personnel. Gundy informed Sellers that other miscellaneous reports, including transcripts of interviews, Laguna Beach Police Department reports and district attorney firearm and technological reports and the coroner’s report and criminal history reports were also reviewed and considered.
The exoneration of the officers does not mean the officers’ ordeal is over. They still must face the internal department investigation. Frank declined to comment on the upcoming internal investigation.