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San Diego County DA clears police, deputies in three shootings and one in-custody death

VIDEO | 01:23
Video of fatal Encinitas shooting

Two deputies shot and killed a man authorities said pointed a gun at them in Encinitas on June 18, 2021

Two of the shootings — in Encinitas and Escondido — were fatal

The District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that it has cleared four police officers and deputies involved in three unrelated shootings — two of them fatal — and cleared a handful of officers who restrained a struggling man who later died.

In reports released to the public Friday afternoon, the District Attorney’s Office found the three shootings were legally justified, meaning the deputies and officers involved will not be charged criminally.

In each of the shootings, the suspects had a weapon: One had a knife in the Gaslamp Quarter, one had a crowbar in Escondido and one reportedly pointed a loaded gun in Encinitas. All three suspects were believed to be homeless.

In the case of the man who died while in custody, officials said he was at his adult daughter’s Chula Vista home when he threatened to jump out of a second-story window. After a struggle, police put him in leg restraints and placed a spit sock over his head.

Prosecutors said they found insufficient evidence that the man died as a result of unreasonable restraint.

All four incidents were caught on cameras worn by the officers or deputies. Videos from three of the incidents had been previously released.

Video from the fourth incident, which hadn’t been made public previously, was released by prosecutors Friday. The incident is the fatal shooting of a man who deputies said pointed a loaded gun at them in Encinitas.

The newly released footage is brief — one minute, 18 seconds — and includes footage from one of the two deputies who shot the man as he ran from them. The first several seconds do not include audio.

Here, in chronological order, are the four incidents in which the district attorney released findings Friday:

Oral Nunis, 56, owned a small trucking business near Stockton when he came to Chula Vista to visit his daughter, a Navy sailor. The daughter witnessed the encounter, which started shortly before midnight on March 12, 2020.

The daughter told the Union-Tribune last year that she called 911 when her father was in the throes of a panic attack and tried to hurl himself out of a window. She said she and her boyfriend were able to calm him as they waited for help. But when an officer arrived and tried to handcuff him, he balked and ran.

Oral Nunis Sr in spit hood and restrained in The WRAP.
Chula Vista police body-worn camera footage shows 56-year-old Oral Nunis Sr. in March 2020, wearing a spit hood and being restrained in The WRAP. Shortly thereafter, Nunis was taken away in an ambulance, where he stopped breathing and later died.
(Courtesy of Chula Vista Police Department)

Prosecutors said in their report that the officers struggled with him. Eventually, Nunis was handcuffed, put in a leg-restraint known as the WRAP, and a spit hood was placed over his head.

They said Nunis stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance. He died at a hospital.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Nunis died from sudden cardiorespiratory arrest, which the county Medical Examiner’s Office said was likely due to “an excited delirium-type scenario.”

In August, Chula Vista police released body-worn camera footage of the incident.

Nunis’ family is suing the Chula Vista Police Department. Citing that pending litigation, the department declined to comment.

Stephen Wilson, 69, was homeless when he was shot and wounded by a San Diego police officer near the Gaslamp Quarter about 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

Someone flagged down Officer Kelly Besker to report a homeless man with a knife behaving oddly and creating a disturbance. Besker located Wilson — standing on a corner with trash strewn about — and approached him. Wilson told Besker he didn’t have a knife on him.

Police provided video of the encounter. As a second officer at the scene moves close to Wilson, Besker saw the knife in Wilson’s back left pocket, according to the report.

Besker confronts Wilson about the knife. Wilson backs away, pulls out the knife and drops it. At that the same instant Besker shouts, “Do not grab that knife!” and opens fire.

When Wilson realizes he’d been shot, and asks Besker, “Why did you shoot me?”

“I told you not to grab the knife out of the back pocket,” Besker answered.

“I was giving it to you,” Wilson said.

The knife was 10 inches long — 5-inch blade, 5-inch handle.

The district attorney’s review found that it was not unreasonable for Besker to believe that Wilson presented an imminent threat — Wilson was two feet from the second officer when he pulled out the knife.

San Diego police did not provide comment. Wilson has filed a claim against the city.

Steven John Olson, a 59-year-old homeless man, was shot and killed just after 7 a.m. April 21 in downtown Escondido after someone called police to report his apparently odd behavior.

Steven John Olson
Steven John Olson, circa 2013
(Calfornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Olson had a history of drug use and mental illness, and many officers knew him by name, He’d been arrested 188 times in 19 years.

The first officer on the scene spoke with Olson, who was incoherent and carrying a squeegee and a two-foot crowbar. Olson did not respond to the officer’s commands and instead jogged off, as seen in the video released by police.

Another officer soon encountered Olson in the middle of South Broadway. Olson — disheveled, incoherent and holding the crowbar — quickly approached that officer, Chad Moore.

Moore drew his gun and repeatedly warned Olson to drop the rod and stop. Moore backed up 65 feet as Olson continued to move in fast, crowbar raised. With Olson about 7 feet away, Moore opened fire. Olson died at a hospital.

In finding the shooting was justified, the district attorney’s report pointed to the “totality of the circumstances,” including that Olson’s continued to approach and refused to drop the crowbar.

Less-lethal options, such as using a Taser or releasing Moore’s police dog, were “not feasible given the immediacy of the perceived threat,” the review found.

Escondido police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eric Anderson, 40, was asleep when Deputy James Clone and Deputy Sean Zappia approached him about 8 a.m. June 18 in response to a report that Anderson had been sleeping under a tree in Encinitas.

Sheriff’s officials have said little about the incident, and had not released video footage. The clip released by the District Attorney’s Office on Friday does not show the entire interaction. It starts less than 40 seconds before the shooting.

According to the District Attorney’s Office at some point during the encounter, Anderson yelled at the deputies to “Get back!”

Anderson pulled out an object wrapped in a green bandana and pointed it at them. It was a gun. That part of the encounter is not seen in the video released.

The footage starts 15 seconds before Anderson runs off down the hill toward Interstate 5. The deputies chase him. The report says Zappia’s body-worn camera fell off during the pursuit.

According to the report, as Zappia closed in, Anderson slowed and turned to his left, the semi-automatic gun in his left hand. Both deputies opened fire, fatally shooting Anderson.

In its review of the case, the District Attorney’s Office said Anderson’s gun was loaded. Officials found the two deputies justified in their actions.

Sheriff’s officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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