Mauricio Barron, r.i.p.
Mauricio Barron, r.i.p.
Courtesy of Barron family

OCDA Clears CHP Cop in Fatal Freeway Shooting of Unarmed, Mentally Ill Man

By the accounts of those closest to Mauricio Barron, the 27-year-old Riverside resident showed signs of heightening paranoia in the days leading up to an officer-involved shooting that killed him on the 5 Freeway in Irvine last year. When staying with his sister, Barron heard noises at a vacant house nearby and called police who noted his paranoid demeanor. He didn't go to sleep the night before his girlfriend ran a marathon in Long Beach, overly concerned with who might be outside their hotel room.

According to a report released by the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office on Friday, family members intervened the day of the shooting when Barron's stepbrother offered to drive him to Loma Linda Hospital to get help. Barron agreed and the two hopped on the 91 Freeway on October 10, 2016. Along the way, Barron became deathly silent before brandishing a large kitchen knife he took from his mother's house that morning. Barron's stepbrother pulled the car over to the center divider and fled.

Barron took the wheel, but reports already came in to the California Highway Patrol about a man chasing another man with a knife on the 91 Freeway. Two hours later, Irvine police tracked down the car by the 5 Freeway; only it was abandoned with the keys still in the ignition. Around that time, Barron's mother told police her son had been up for five days straight and was "a danger to himself and others." Around 2:30 p.m., a witness saw Barron sitting on a utility box by the 5 Freeway's Barranca Parkway overcross. When police arrived, they found a large kitchen knife, a circle with an "x" all drawn in his blood, but no Barron.

Hours later at dusk, CHP received called about a man walking onto 5 Freeway traffic with his arms up. When CHP officers arrived within minutes, they slowed traffic on the northbound lanes. Barron spotted them, hopped a K-rail, and walked into oncoming traffic on southbound lanes. A woman slowed her car down to 25 mph, but still struck Barron when he lunged in front of her vehicle.

CHP officer Daniel Agee arrived on scene by motorcycle and saw Barron flailing his hands on the right side of the freeway about 50 feet away. Agee repeatedly told Barron to stop, but to no avail; he walked towards him at a fast pace with one hand concealed behind his back. Yelling that he had a gun, Barron threatened to shoot Agee. The CHP officer told OCDA investigators that Barron closed the distance when he "punched his arms out and locked his elbows as if he had a firearm" from just eight feet away.

Fearing that he'd soon be shot, Agee opened fire three times, fatally wounding Barron once in forehead. Barron was unarmed, had no drugs in his system and no prior criminal record. But the OCDA found no fault with the officer's actions in a investigation letter dated Sept. 20 and delivered to the CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow (who already retired from the agency to become UC Davis police chief in August). "Officer Agee was justified when he shot Barron," the OCDA report reads. "Simply stated, Officer Agee did not commit a crime, to the contrary, he carried out his duties as a peace office [sic] in a reasonable and justifiable manner."

Two months after the shooting, attorney Dale Galipo filed a claim on behalf of Leticia Barron, Mauricio's mother, that alleged the deadly use of force was unjustified. Leticia, who only found out about her son's shooting on the news, informed the Weekly prior to the report's release that she planned a "No Justice, No Peace" press conference outside the OCDA's office next week to mark the one-year anniversary of his death. But the agency's recent clearing of the CHP officer changed those plans until further notice.

As always, read the report in its entirety online.

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