Photo by Doc Searls via Flickr Creative Commons
The usually serene Santa Barbara County is seeing an uptick in officer-involved shootings.
Santa Barbara County is experiencing a bizarre rash of officer-involved shootings this year. The most recent came Thursday evening, after an hour-long chase that started and ended in Santa Maria, circling through several rural towns along the way.
When the chase ended, the suspect, whose name hasn't been released, allegedly got out of his car carrying what turned out to be a "replica handgun." Officers opened fire, killing the man.
Thursday's officer-involved shooting is Santa Barbara's seventh of the year—a highly unusual number for the relatively serene coastal county of about 420,000 people.
Sgt. Mark Williams of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, which investigates officer-involved shootings in the county, said his agency usually sees one "every three years or so." He called the number of shootings this year "highly unusual," adding there was an additional shooting near the end of 2011.
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca cautioned deputies to be more cautious about using their weapons after a spate of officer-involved shootings in 2009.
The L.A.County Board of Supervisors has approved nearly $2 million in settlements in lawsuits against the Sheriff's Department. The largest payout, $900,000, went to the family of Darrick Collins, a 36-year-old man shot to death in 2009 by a deputy near Collins' West Athens home.
Collins' death came amidst a rash of shootings by sheriff's deputies and sparked outrage in South L.A. communities. That led to policy changes at the sheriff's department, with Sheriff Lee Baca instructing deputies to try to contain potentially armed suspects and call backup instead of confronting them immediately.
According to court records, deputies had been looking for two robbery suspects when they spotted Collins and a friend standing on the sidewalk a quarter mile from the robbery site. The two apparently matched the suspects' descriptions. When the deputies approached the men, Collins allegedly backed away, reached into his waistband and then ran.
County of Los Angeles
A drawing from Abdul Arian's autopsy shows multiple bullet wounds. Arian's family is suing LAPD, claiming they used excessive force when officers shot and killed the 19-year-old.
Abdul Arian was shot and killed by LAPD officers after a freeway chase April 11, 2012. Today, his family announced they're suing the city for $120 million — that's $1 million for every shot they say police fired at the teen.
The family's attorney, Jeffrey Galen, said it was the worst case of excessive force he's seen in his 25-year career, and that more accountability is needed to keep police shootings from escalating.
"It would have been excessive to fire just one shot," Galen said. Meanwhile, he said police and the city have been uncooperative in giving the family information about the night of Arian's death. The lawsuit, he said, is to seek justice and to seek answers.
The incident made national headlines. After a chase, Arian, 19, stopped his car, blocking lanes on the 101. A police car then hit the car's drivers side door, and Arian ran out the other side of the car. Video from a news chopper shows Arian running back and forth across the freeway, sometimes taking an odd stance (which some have described as a "shooting stance"), before he's fatally shot.