Family members of a 19-year-old man killed by Buena Park police officers are asking the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to reconsider its decision to not file criminal charges.
Attorneys representing David Sullivan’s family accuse the two officers of shooting the man “in cold blood,” contending he was trying to escape and wasn’t posing a threat to anyone.
The attorneys also released footage from a body-worn camera on one of the officers, which shows an unarmed Sullivan struck by seven gunshots before collapsing to the sidewalk.
The attorneys on Tuesday joined Sullivan’s family, as well as families of other people killed by police in Southern California in front of the county offices in Santa Ana. The family, which has also filed a federal lawsuit, hopes to persuade the county to take a new look at the shooting.
“We are here demanding justice,” said Christian Contreras, one of the attorneys representing Sullivan’s family. “We live in a country of law and order. Police officers cannot play judge, jury and executioner. When David Sullivan was killed, that is what we saw.”
Deanna Sullivan, David’s mother, questioned why the officers didn’t try to de-escalate the situation or use less-than-lethal weapons. She described Sullivan as gentle, funny and kind, saying he was a music-loving teenager involved in theater and the marching band in high school.
“He was stolen from us, because those cops panicked and they didn’t do their job that day,” Deanna Sullivan said. “There was chaos. They just started shooting.”
“He did not deserve to die like that. Nobody does,” the mother added.
The OC DA’s Office previously cleared officers Bobby Colon and Jennifer Tran of any criminal wrongdoing, with Senior Deputy District Attorney David Porter in a public letter outlining the results of the investigation saying there is “substantial evidence that their actions were reasonable and justified under the circumstances.”
According to the DA’s letter, Sullivan on the morning of Aug. 19, 2019 stole about $1,000 in cash and more than $1,000 in merchandise from a gas station he worked at, loaded the items into the back seat of a customer’s Range Rover, then drove off in the stolen vehicle.
Several hours later, officers Colon and Tran pulled the Range Rover over for an expired registration tag in the 500 block of North Gilbert Street in Fullerton.
Sullivan was initially calm and cooperative with the officers, according to the DA’s letter, telling them he didn’t have a driver’s license and claiming the car belonged to a cousin. The officers soon learned from dispatchers that the car had been reported stolen, according to the DA’s letter, but because of his demeanor opted to keep their weapons holstered while asking Sullivan to get out.
According to the DA letter, Sullivan suddenly grabbed the steering wheel and started the engine of the SUV, then reversed it at a high rate of speed over a greenbelt before hitting the patrol car, running over a traffic sign, colliding with a palm tree and ricocheting into another vehicle driving along Gilbert.
Officer Colon ordered Sullivan to exit the now-disabled SUV, according to the DA’s letter, and Sullivan allegedly responded by flipping off the officer, then quickly getting out and yelling an expletive.
Colon told DA investigators he opened fire at first because Sullivan “charged,” and the officer said he thought Sullivan was going to attack and disarm him.
Tran told investigators that she opened fire because she believed Sullivan had “the ability and intention” to harm Colon, according to the DA’s letter.
Video, apparently taken from a camera worn by Colon, shows Sullivan getting out of the car. Sullivan moves in the general direction of the officers, then veers off to the side after he is apparently struck by the first gunshot.
The DA’s letter noted that what investigators described as an “apparent suicide note” was found in Sullivan’s wallet. The family attorneys said it didn’t justify the shooting, with Sullivan’s mother explaining he was going through a tough time with his grandfather dying of cancer, another family member committing suicide and Sullivan struggling to find direction.
In a statement released after the news conference, officials with the DA’s Office noted they had conducted a “thorough, independent analysis of this officer-involved shooting.”
The state also indicated that the DA’s Office “will always consider any new, pertinent information.”
Source: Orange County Register