Open one case, close another! The same day Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) investigators responded to the scene of an Anaheim police shooting, Tony Rackauckas' office ruled another killing by the department last year to be within policy. A laundry list of cops that fired at Steen Parker, a 43-year-old armed robber, last year all got cleared of any wrongdoing.
Here's the roll call: Nick Bennalack, Mark Brydges, Jeff Burke, Douglas Elms, Catalin Panov and Stephen Salicos. Bennalack? Ah, yes: he's the cop that killed Manuel Diaz, an unarmed man, on Anna Drive three summers ago that set off protests and riots in the city.
According to the recent report, the trouble started September 19, 2014 around noon. Parker and his pal Paul Brian Marval III (who the OCDA refers to as 'John Doe #1') drove a black Honda Pilot into the parking lot of Fry's Electronics in Anaheim. An hour later, Parker bought $32 worth of junk, unloaded it and came back inside the store.
A staffer tasked with stopping shoplifters confronted Parker after seeing him steal. He pulled a semi-automatic and pointed it at the employee. "It's no big deal, just leave," the staffer pleaded. Parker got in the Honda Pilot with Marval and fled the store. Around that time, Anaheim police received an armed robbery call.
The men got in a car crash nearby on Miraloma and Tustin Avenue. They both took off with Steen taking cover at Manheim Auto Auction. Police responding to the call arrested Marval. Around 2 p.m., an officer spotted Steen crawling under cars at Manheim's parking lot. An APD helicopter hovered ordered him to surrender, but he got into a BMW SUV instead.
An hour later, SWAT snipers Bennalack and Salicos set up at a nearby building. The cops brought in a "lightly-armored" SWAT vehicle called "Peacekeeper." Burke and Panov took their position behind it. Steen got in and out of the SUV a number of times without giving himself up. Police fired pepper spray and pepper balls into the vehicle.
Into the afternoon, a gunshot rang out. Cops believed Steen faked a suicide to throw them off. When Parker got out of the BMW yet again, he got pelted by bean-bags and fell to the ground in pain. Next, the report says he got up and started firing his gun at Brydges and Panov. That's when, along with APD snipers, they returned a deadly hailstorm of bullets. A doctor deemed Parker's death to be caused by multiple gunshot wounds. Ya think!
"It is very hard to imagine a more serious set of circumstances to police officers than being in close proximity to an armed robbery suspect who is pointing his gun at officers and firing at them," the OCDA report surmises. "The officers were justified when they shot at Parker."
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For Bennalack, the September 2014 shooting marked the third fatal one he's been a part of in as many years. Two previous wrongful death lawsuits for Bernie Villegas and Manuel Diaz respectively didn't result in a settlement nor claim money for their families.
For folks that want to tread through the minutia of a SWAT operation, read the report in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2