The Orange County district attorney has exonerated the Laguna Beach Police Department in the death of Colby Joshua Koenig, 25, who was shot by police after crashing his vehicle and allegedly failing to stop on South Coast Highway about 8 a.m. Jan. 12.
In an unprecedented move, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackaukas has released the results of his office's lengthy investigation into the shooting. Rackaukas said his office has decided to change its policy toward reports of officer-involved shooting death investigations, beginning with the Koenig case. Normally, the results of such investigations are only made public if someone is prosecuted in connection to the case, Rackaukas said.
"Starting today, I am changing the office's policy and procedure by publicly providing the factual findings and legal conclusion after conducting our officer-involved shooting and custodial death investigations," Rackaukas said in a news release statement Dec. 9.
The seven-page report alleges that Koenig, a Foothill Ranch resident, was acting erratically prior to driving northbound through Laguna Beach at high speeds on the wrong side of the road and colliding with another vehicle, then allegedly refusing to stop when paramedics attempted to assist him.
The report alleges that, although injured in a head-on collision, Koenig refused to get out of the vehicle or to receive treatment, and put his vehicle into reverse as a paramedic was leaning into the vehicle to render assistance. As Koenig drove in reverse up a side street, police officers gathered as a crowd formed to watch the incident, according to the report.
Three officers fired shots at Koenig before the vehicle came to a halt, crashing into a parked car on St. Ann's Drive, according to the report. Motor Officer Rod MacDonald, who was one of the first to arrive at the incident, fired 10 shots into the vehicle as Koenig allegedly attempted to flee. Sgt. George Ramos then fired two shots at Koenig as he allegedly drove toward a crowd of pedestrians, according to the report. The last to fire was Cpl. Paul Bixby, who fired three shots "to protect the pedestrians and himself," the report states. The report states that bullets struck Koenig in the back of the head and left bicep, causing him to crash the car.
Koenig was pronounced dead later that day. The report states that toxicological tests showed the presence of methamphetamine, morphine, marijuana and nordiazepam, a muscle relaxer, in his system. Based on the caliber size of the bullet, either MacDonald or Ramos fired the fatal shot, according to the report.
"I am pleased that the district attorney conducted a thorough investigation that found that the Laguna Beach Police Department responded appropriately and reasonably to the incident," said City Manager John Pietig.
The Koenig family filed a claim with the city in June, Pietig said.
Joseph Barrett, an attorney representing the Koenig family, said: "At this time, we have no comment, beyond stating that we continue to consider all of the facts and evidence and will make appropriate decisions in the near future, respecting all those who were involved in this tragedy and the surrounding circumstances of this fatal incident."
The report may be viewed at http://www.orangecountyda.com.