Surprise, surprise: the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) has cleared Anaheim Officer Chris Petropulos in his non-fatal shooting of Pedro Mejia. The incident, which happened October 21, 2012, was the final officer-involved shooting in the city in a year where the Anaheim PD became nationally infamous for their trigger-happy ways.
Around 1:30 a.m that night, Petropulos and Officer Ryan Wardle were dispatched to a central Anaheim neighborhood in response to complaints of a loud party. A number of bicyclists, Mejia among them, were riding down South Philadelphia Street when Petropulos decided to trail them by turning on his patrol car's spotlight.
According to the officer, he tried to stop the man after two violations–riding without lights and running a stop sign–had been committed, then saw the bicyclist pull what he believed was a gun. The next time the officer saw Mejia, he had both hands on the bike's handlebar, but still thought he was armed.
“Petropulos attempted to stop Mejia by placing the front of his police vehicle against the rear tire of Mejia's bicycle,” the OC DA report stated. “This caused Mejia to stop and slide off the back of the bicycle into a standing position.”
At a stated distance of 12-15 feet, Petropulos fired one round as Mejia had his back to him, believing he was preparing to turn and shoot. He was handcuffed by Wardle, saying “All you cops are crooked” and “I'm not going to die from this. I'll be back.” A gun was retrieved 40 yards from the scene. Mejia was then taken to UCI Medical Center, treated and survived his injuries.
Once inside an APD jail cell, audio and video recordings surreptitiously captured a conversation he had with two others as he introduced himself as “Rhino” from Anaheim Barrio Small Town (BST). Recounting the event, he told them that he had a .38 caliber handgun that he tossed when he realized he was trapped by police.
A month after the shooting, Mejia pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court to a felony count of participating in a criminal street gang while carrying a loaded firearm in public, for which he's serving a 16-month sentence in state prison. Additional felony counts were dismissed including criminal street gang enhancements and possession of a firearm with prior misdemeanor conviction.
“There is significant evidence that the officer's actions were reasonable and justified,” reads the conclusion of the seven-page report. And with that, the OCDA closed its inquiry into the final episode of the Anaheim police shooting desmadre of 2012.
The OCDA investigative letter can be read in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz