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DA clears Anaheim officer who shot and killed a man during standoff

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has cleared a former Anaheim officer who shot and killed a man who hid in an Anaheim garage during a police standoff.

The actions of then-Officer Nick Bennallack were “reasonable, necessary and justified under the circumstances” when he shot and killed 30-year-old Daniel Ramirez III, a deputy district attorney wrote in a letter released Monday outlining the results of their investigation.

“Based on the totality of all the available evidence and the circumstances, it is apparent that Officer Bennallack was justified in believing that Ramirez posed an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to himself and the other officers,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bugman wrote.

Anaheim City Spokesman Mike Lyster said that “any loss of life in our city is tragic.” Lyster added that the incident “shows the complex situations our police can face,” noting that Anaheim officers called to assist another department “found someone hiding in a garage with weapons nearby.”

Bennallack has been involved in four fatal police shootings in recent years, including the 2012 killing of Manuel Diaz that helped spark unrest and riots in Anaheim. The DA’s office has cleared Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing in all four fatal shootings, though a federal jury in a civil case later determined that Bennallack used excessive force when he shot and killed Diaz.

Lyster confirmed that Bennallack is no longer working for the Anaheim Police Department, but said personnel rules prohibited him from commenting further on the nature of Bennallack’s departure.

A federal civil rights lawsuit against Bennallack – as well as the cities of Anaheim and Irvine – has been filed on behalf of Ramirez’s family by the law offices of Dale Galipo, the same attorney who was represented Diaz’s family in their legal battle. The lawsuit alleges that Ramirez was complying with police orders and did not pose a danger to anyone.

“There were several reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force,” the lawsuit reads. “(Ramirez) was not given a warning that deadly force was going to be used.”

Shortly before 9 a.m. on Apr. 4, 2019, Irvine officers arrived at a home in the 500 block of North Harcourt Street in Anaheim while searching for a man suspected of stealing guitars and amps from a vehicle. An Anaheim SWAT team, of which Bennallack was a member, was called to assist when the Irvine detectives found a loaded rifle and ammunition in a garage, and heard movement in an attic, according to the deputy district attorney’s letter.

A man, later identified as Ramirez, initially refused commands to come down into the garage then yelled “I’ll shoot back” after Bennallack fired pepper balls into the attic, according to the letter. Another man came down from the attic and was taken into custody, according to the letter, while the standoff with Ramirez continued.

Ramirez eventually exited the attic, according to the DA’s letter, but did not comply with commands to get on his stomach. The officers told DA investigators that Ramirez pointed his right hand toward them, then turned to run into the garage, leading one of them to shoot him with a “sponge projectile.”

Seconds later, Bennallack reported seeing Ramirez “reach for his waistband and observed a bulge in Ramirez’s waistband area above his buttocks, (and) believed Ramirez was concealing a gun,” according to the letter. Bennallack fired five rounds from his rifle, shooting and killing Ramirez.

No weapon was found on Ramirez, according to the letter. Two loaded firearms – a rifle and a revolver – were found elsewhere in the garage, according to the letter, which had been converted to a makeshift bedroom where Ramirez was living.

Source: Orange County Register

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