When La Habra police killed Michael Cho on New Year’s Eve 2007, the shooting angered local Koreans. Susan Kang Schroeder, the Orange County district attorney’s then-spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times the following February that the agency’s last prosecution of a cop for an on-duty shooting came during the ’80s. When asked by the Weekly about that case now, the district attorney’s office (OCDA) couldn’t find any information about it by press time.
The constant clearing of cops in shootings adds to cynicism about the system. Protesters often question why police didn’t use non-lethal weapons or shoot a person without killing them long before OCDA reports are published. In surveying hundreds of officer-involved shootings, Blood Orange found a number of cases in which cops did just that. And then there are situations in which officers are left with little choice but to use deadly force in self-defense and in defense of others.
Here’s five OC police shootings between 2006 and 2016 for which nobody chanted, “Jail killer cops!” or, “Better training!” in protest.
5. Joseph de la Riva (March 6, 2016): De la Riva walked into a Subway in Anaheim and took two teenage girls working behind the counter hostage at knifepoint. One of the workers discreetly called 911 before slipping her cellphone into her pants pocket. A dispatcher overheard de la Riva’s distraught conversation with his uncle. When police arrived, de la Riva ignored commands to drop the knife. Instead, he held it up to the neck of one of his hostages. The other girl bit his arm, and in the ensuing struggle, Sergeant Daniel Gonzalez barged into the Subway and shot de la Riva without killing him or harming the hostages.
4. David Dinh (Dec. 28, 2010): Fountain Valley officers responded to a call of a teen forcing his way into an apartment at gunpoint before leaving. When police arrived, 17-year-old Dinh greeted them with a semiautomatic rifle. He ignored commands to drop the weapon. Instead, Dinh singled out an officer from the group and started firing. Four officers returned fire until a downed Dinh dropped his weapon. Tried as an adult, an OC jury noted Dinh’s bipolar disorder in sentencing him to 10 years in prison, but without any convictions for the attempted murder of police officers.
3. Myung Jae Kim (March 1, 2012): Kim took a Buena Park bank manager hostage over a money dispute with a sawed-off shotgun, a knife and four pipe bombs. Buena Park SWAT officers responded, and the ensuing standoff lasted four hours. Despite all of Kim’s weapons, police stormed the bank and shot him in the stomach without coming under attack themselves. In the trial that followed, Kim received a 24-year prison sentence for his multiple misdeeds.
2. John Frank Brantley Jr. (Nov. 1, 2014): A Garden Grove couple awoke to the noise of Brantley trying to break into their home. He pleaded for protection from gang members attacking him. But it was all a lie. Once inside, Brantley threatened the couple in a home-invasion robbery. The husband loaded a shotgun with birdshot to protect his wife. Garden Grove police responded to her call for help. A struggle over the front door ensued. Brantley pulled a knife and put her in a chokehold. She managed to open the door when Brantley rushed over to the husband and stabbed him. Brantley and the husband struggled for control of the shotgun, and Brantley pointed the muzzle at officers. Corporal Timothy Kovacs shot and killed Brantley before he could pull the trigger.
1. Oscar Gallegos (Dec. 28, 2006): The subject of a statewide manhunt, Gallegos shot and seriously wounded two Long Beach police officers during a traffic stop. Six days later, Long Beach detectives tailed a Camry driving Gallegos around Santa Ana before the car parked at a local strip mall. Gallegos and another man were walking back from getting tacos when they noticed Santa Ana police on the scene. Gallegos shot at police, who returned gunfire and killed him.
(For the story behind the shootout, see Nick Schou’s “Santa Ana Showdown,” Jan. 18, 2007.)