It has been eight months since the shooting death of Manuel Diaz. The Orange County District Attorney's Office released its findings Wednesday. The OCDA found no wrongdoing. The actions of the police officer who shot Diaz were justified.
The OCDA says two Anaheim police officers recognized the 25-year-old as a gang member who went by the nickname "Stomper." Investigators say they believed criminal activity was under way when they saw three men near a car in an Anaheim alley on July 21, 2012. The men, including Diaz, started running when officers approached.
Diaz ignored commands to stop and appeared to reach into his waistband as though grabbing for a weapon.
Anaheim Police Officer Nick Bennallack said he feared for his life of and the life of his partner. Bennallack fired his weapon as he appeared to start turning around toward them.
Authorities say Diaz was shot twice, including once in the head. It was later determined Diaz was not armed. His cellphone was found nearby.
OCDA investigators interviewed nearly 50 witnesses. After examining all of the evidence, investigators found Bennallack's actions were justified and that he acted in self-defense.
"Using the analysis that the courts say we must, making allowance for split-second judgment and intense circumstances that Officer Bennallack had to make, we believe Bennallack was reasonable in believing that Diaz had a gun," said Orange County Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner. "The evidence does not support a finding of criminal culpability on the part of Officer Bennallack. And the reason why is because there's significant evidence that his actions were justified when he shot Manuel Diaz."
The shooting death, and an unrelated Anaheim police officer-involved fatal shooting that same weekend, sparked violent street protests in Anaheim that led to nearly 25 arrests and nearly 24 businesses being vandalized.
Diaz's mother and the family attorney say they are outraged and numbed by the OCDA findings. Diaz's mother believes Bennallack should be in jail. She says she will continue to try to seek justice. The Diaz family has filed a $50-million lawsuit against the city of Anaheim and the Anaheim Police Department.