ORANGE, Calif. - The Orange County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday an Orange police officer was justified in shooting Michael Anthony Perez, and investigators said newly released video evidence shows multiple officers were in danger.
In the police dashcam video, you can hear Orange police officers trying to coax Perez out of this white van. Then, they shatter the windows and spray a fire hose inside as he moves to the back.
After he's unfazed by a less-than-lethal round, the dramatic standoff ends with an officer-involved shooting, killing the 33-year-old man because, authorities say, he was reaching for a knife.
"Officer Gutierrez was justified in believing that Mr. Perez posed a significant threat of death or serious injury to himself and to others," explained Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh at a morning news conference.
The district attorney's office cleared the officer in the incident, which occurred at a shopping center parking lot in the 100 block of Katella Avenue in March.
Baytieh went through details of the standoff, including Perez holding a gas can and threatening to light it.
He also said Perez was holding a knife when he got out of the van. Two were found at the scene.
"The suspect, who is armed with a knife, is struggling with an officer. The officer is not 5 feet away, not 10 feet away, the officer is right there," Baytieh added.
Toxicology reports also show methamphetamine in Perez's system.
His family has hired an attorney, who said he's asked for this evidence from the Orange Police Department and was disappointed to see it released this way to the public.
"This is an investigation with Michael as the victim of a homicide, and there wasn't that cooperation there with the family," said attorney Christian Pereira.
Pereira said he's not surprised the officer was cleared but believes all of this could have been avoided.
"I believe, firmly, that the police department escalated it," he added. "There was nothing that shows...an emergency."
The family has filed a claim with the city of Orange and said they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit this month.