On July 30, 2013, Santa Ana police officer Stephen Chavez conducted a homeless sweep around 2:45 p.m. in the city's Harbor Place Shopping Center. The owner of Cafe Lu in the plaza off South Harbor Blvd. and West McFadden Street told Chavez the day before that a transient refused to leave his business and made female employees uncomfortable. Chavez returned to Cafe Lu, but no problems were reported. Upon leaving the establishment, the officer crossed paths with 22-year-old Hans Arellano, though, at a makeshift mattress shelter. He issued commands in vain for Arellano to leave and later attempted to arrest him but the man fled on foot.
What happened next ultimately ended with Arellano being killed by another officer responding to the scene. The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office justified the fatal shooting in a report made public this week.
In the OCDA's letter, Chavez called over police radio that he had a possible 'disturbing the peace' or mental health '5150' situation on his hand. Officer Jessica Guidry heard it and made her way over. When she arrived to the shopping center, Guidry couldn't find her colleague but did see Arellano running through the parking lot into a Jugos La Tropicana. That's when things got dicey.
Thinking Arellano under the influence and potentially violent based her view of his behavior, Guidry called for back up as she chased him into the juice bar. She also didn't know why he fled in the first place or if Chavez searched him for weapons. Standing outside the doorway of Jugos, officer Guidry pointed her gun at Arellano ordering him to stay still and show his hands. "Fuck you!" he responded. "Shoot me."
After Arellano advanced towards Guidry, she did, firing once fearing that he would try to take her gun away. At the time, the Arellano shooting tallied the 5th by a Santa Ana police officer. A civilian filmed it on his smartphone from a distance turning the footage over the CBS2/KCAL9 Los Angeles. Vigils, protests and calls for justice followed.
The OCDA's investigation reviewed the cellphone footage as well as video from Jugos. Both are said to show Arellano lunging at Guidry. The cop gave a voluntary statement to investigators two weeks after the incident. "The facts in this case are determined largely by considering the shooting officer's statements," the report reads.
"Oh shit, she fucking shot this fool," said the man filming the incident on his phone. "Why did she shoot him?" The OCDA doesn't bother with questions of training or tactics. It solely considers criminal conduct. Guidry shot Arellano to death with a bullet striking his aorta. "It is our legal opinion that we do not have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt," the report concludes, "that Officer Guidry committed a crime when she shot and killed Arellano on July 30, 2013."
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The OCDA investigative letter can be read in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2