Facing a suicidal man who holding a knife to his own throat, California cops said they had no choice but to shoot him dead.
After all, Santa Maria police said they had exhausted all nonlethal means during 30 minutes of negotiations with the 31-year-old man, which was when they shot him multiple times in front of dozens of witnesses, including one man who was recording.
The video shows several police officers standing behind a police car when they opened fire on July 21.
Prior to the video surfacing, Santa Maria police were claiming that Javier Garcia Gaona had “lunged” at them with the knife, making them fear for their lives.
But lunging is common cop terminology to justify shooting people holding knives, screwdrivers and scissors whether it’s true they lunged or not. Had he not been holding a knife, police would have simply said he had “reached.”
It’s all Basic Police 101.
Once the video surfaced, local media said he “appeared to lunge” at officers, which still appears to be a stretch, but you can judge for yourself in the video below.
A local television station, KSBY, said it recorded the shooting but chose not to air it “due to the graphic nature of the video.”
The station said it was anticipating the Santa Maria Police Department to request the video for its investigation, but would not release the footage without a subpoena.
The station’s decision to not release the footage shows the importance of citizen journalism because it’s more important to show the truth rather than coddle viewers.
Thankfully, the man who recorded the shooting, James Jepsen, passed it on to a journalist named Oscar Flores, who simply posted a warning on his Facebook page as well as in the video to warn viewers of the video’s graphic content.
Transparency is really not that difficult.
Garcia was apparently despondent about money owed to him, according to a friend. His family said he did not suffer from mental illness as far as they knew.
“Whenever I would be sad, he would make jokes or start dancing out of nowhere,” Javier’s little sister, Janet Garcia, told KSBY. “He would buy me toys, like dolls, when I was younger. He would buy me clothes. He would give me money sometimes.”
Witnesses became angry after the shooting and began yelling at police, calling them murderers, criticizing them for not using nonlethal means, but police said they had tried that.
Last Wednesday morning, Santa Maria police officers fired multiple gunshots at a man holding a knife to his throat, after they said they exhausted nonlethal means. For more than a half hour on Broadway Street, officers negotiated with 31-year-old Javier Gaona, who shouted to officers to kill him. Police first deployed several rounds of beanbag shotguns, but they used lethal force after he appeared to lunge at them.
The Santa Maria Police Department turned the investigation over to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, which will determine if any lunging took place.
Garcia’s family has launched a Go Fund Me page to help with burial expenses. Twenty-seven people have have raised $1,531 of a $7,000 goal in eleven days.