The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has cleared Glendale police officers in three recent shootings — two of them fatal, including one in January in which the suspect sent an email all but admitting to plans for “suicide by cop.”
Prosecutors found that Glendale officers acted in “lawful self-defense” in all three shootings, including a gun battle between officers and a Rosamond man who was killed in September on San Fernando Road, a Jan. 5 incident in which a man was killed after threatening police with a knife, and a non-fatal shooting in North Hollywood in June 2011.
“In these types of incidents, officers have to make split-second decisions in stressful situations,” Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said this week.”I am proud of them, as I am sure the community thanks them for their service.”
In the Jan. 5 incident, Glendale police arrived to an alley on Riverside Drive after receiving a call from Richard Hughes' girlfriend that he had overdosed, according to the district attorney's report on the shootings.
After an officer at the scene heard screaming and items breaking, Hughes reportedly stuck his head out a window and urged police to use him for target practice.
Police took cover behind a parked truck, with Hughes emerging a short time later holding a knife. After ignoring several demands to drop the knife, and after getting within what police described as striking distance, an officer fired one round into Hughes' chest.
Police later found two knives next to Hughes, who died at the hospital from the gunshot wound.
Prosecutors discovered that Hughes had a history of psychological problems and had told his girlfriend two days before the shooting that he would make police shoot him.
He sent an email during the incident that stated, “Cops are here ia m (sic) making them shoot me. I loved you … but it's too late. I never mattered to you … today I die. I DIE NOW,” according to the report.
In the other fatal shooting incident four months earlier, police officers engaged in a shootout with Antonio Tafolla-Diaz about 2.25 a.m. at Glendale Avenue and San Fernando Road, killing the Toonerville gang member in a barrage of gunfire.
Earlier that morning on Sept. 30, Glendale police officers were patrolling the area when they suddenly heard gunfire. They turned around and stopped a pedestrian, who told police he saw Tafolla-Diaz standing at the intersection.
Tafolla-Diaz, who had his hands in his pockets, walked toward the patrol car, prompting commands from officers that he show his hands. He complied, a .22-caliber gun in his left hand.
Tafolla-Diaz opened fire on the officers in the street — they taking cover behind the patrol car, he behind a street lamp.
At one point, he got down on his stomach and continued to point his gun at the officers.
When he could no longer hold his weapon, officers stopped firing. He died from gunshot wounds to his head and chest.
Police recovered two partially loaded gun magazines, four bullet casings and the loaded gun with an expended casing that was lodged in the chamber near Tafolla-Diaz, according to the findings.
Tafolla-Diaz had a history of violent criminal behavior, including abusing and threatening two ex-wives, according to the report.
Investigators also found that he used methamphetamine.
The ex-wives told investigators that he had commented about suicide and was paranoid that police were watching him.
Also in 2011, Glendale officers shot David Santos in the left torso on June 21 when he and another man tried to run over a detective as he tried to stop them during a robbery at Sylvan Street and Colfax Avenue in North Hollywood.
The officers were conducting undercover surveillance of a home in the neighborhood when they spotted Santos and Christopher Morales rob and beat another man, according to the findings. Prosecutors later discovered that the two men — alleged gang members — were wanted in connection with a string of robberies.
The detective tried to stop the pair by ramming his police cruiser into their car.
He exited and drew his weapon because he thought they were boxed in and would flee.
But Santos began reversing the car toward him, prompting the detective to fire, according to the county report.
Prosecutors concluded that the detective's response was “reasonable and necessary” because Santos had put “the detective in “actual, imminent danger of death or great bodily injury.”