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State DoJ concludes 2021 Antioch police shooting was justified

PIX Now afternoon edition 5-24-2024
PIX Now afternoon edition 5-24-2024 08:35

Criminal charges were "not appropriate" against the Antioch police officers who shot and killed Guadalupe Zavala in 2021 during a standoff in which Zavala shot at officers and neighboring homes and vehicles, according to a report released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Friday. 

Shortly after 1 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2021, Antioch police responded to multiple calls from the area of James Donlon Boulevard and Hummingbird Drive regarding a man barricaded in his home with a rifle who was shooting at neighboring homes and vehicles.

A standoff between Zavala and police lasted more than six hours, during which Zavala fired multiple rounds from various locations toward police, vehicles, and nearby residences.

Police said they unsuccessfully used de-escalation measures from a crisis negotiations team, attempting to coerce Zavala from his residence. 

Police said at one point, Zavala exited his front door carrying what appeared to be a "full AR-15 style rifle."

Two Antioch police snipers each fired one round, hitting Zavala, causing him to fall back. Zavala wore body armor and was able to regain his footing and move back inside the home,

A fire later started inside the house and Zavala ran outside and took cover in his backyard. When police knocked down the fence of Zavala's yard with an armored vehicle, Zavala ran toward the armored vehicle and was fatally shot. 

The California Department of Justice concluded no criminal charges should be filed in the case.

Assembly Bill 1506 requires the state DOJ to investigate all officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in California. The DOJ concluded evidence doesn't show beyond a reasonable doubt that officers didn't act in lawful self-defense or defense of others when they shot Zavala. 

"However, DOJ recognizes the important lessons to be learned from this incident. As required by AB 1506, the Attorney General has issued specific policy and practice recommendations related to the incident.," the department said in a statement.

"Loss of life is always a tragedy," Bonta said in the statement. "AB 1506 is a critical transparency and accountability tool, and our hope for this report is to provide some understanding and aid in advancing towards a safer California for all. The California Department of Justice remains steadfast in our commitment to working together with all law enforcement partners to ensure an unbiased, transparent, and accountable legal system for every resident of California."

The DOJ did identify several policy recommendations it said will help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, including that Antioch police should ensure officers are equipped with effective communications devices that can operate in the hilly areas covered by their department. The department should seek additional coverage or upgrades through their department-issued cellphone or radio carriers or, if that is impracticable or not feasible, examine whether there are other cellphone carriers or radio channels that would work in all areas they serve.

The DOJ also said Antioch police should ensure officers can effectively and efficiently communicate with officers from other agencies in future incidents by setting up regional radio channel systems for interagency communication.

A copy of the complete report can be found here.

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