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Photo by Christopher Victorio

OCDA Clears Newport Beach Cop in Fatal Shooting of Bipolar, Knife-Wielding Man

While all attention fixated on a viral video of a Huntington Beach officer fatally shooting Dillan Tabares, the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office quietly released a report Friday afternoon clearing a cop in a similar incident. On April 15, Newport Beach policeman Matthew Biagi gunned down David Airth after the 56-year-old mentally ill man charged at him with a large kitchen knife.

According to the report, Airth suffered from bipolar disorder and fell into a severe, disabling manic episode a month before the shooting. The Newport Beach real estate appraisal company owner sought professional help and took medication, but couldn't work or be left by himself. With mania that worsened at nighttime, Airth walked naked into the kitchen of his home on April 15. He saw his wife washing dishes, grabbed a pan from her, and struck her on the head with it.

Bloodied, Airth's wife ran outside screaming for help. A neighbor called 911 immediately to report the incident of domestic violence as well as Airth's manic condition. The troubled man emerged from his home, still nude, and threw the kitchen pan at his wife and neighbor. He went back inside, put on some underpants, and returned armed with a large kitchen knife. That's when officer Matthew Biagi arrived at the scene.

Biagi repeatedly gave commands to Airth to drop the knife and get on the ground. The man immediately complied. But suddenly, Airth got up with the knife in hand and charged at the cop who pleaded, "Don't do it!" Biagi shot Airth three times in the neck and torso from a distance of 5 to 10 feet away. An ambulance arrived and took Airth to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana where he died that night.

The officer declined to speak to OCDA investigators about the shooting that wasn't captured on his patrol car's dash cam. But Airth's neighbors who witnessed it vouched for Biagi's actions. "As hard as it was to watch a friend and neighbor of over 20 years get killed in front of my face, the police officer did the right thing," one neighbor told investigators. "He had no time to do anything else. He was justified in shooting him."

The OCDA agreed. "Officer Biagi did not commit a crime in connection with this incident," its report concludes. "To the contrary, Officer Biagi had no other option than to act swiftly to protect himself and nearby witnesses, and he carried out his duties as a peace officer in a reasonable and justifiable manner."

With that, deputy district attorney Erin Rowe signed off on the investigation letter clearing the cop in the fatal shooting.

As always, read the report in its entirety online.

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