The Orange County district attorney's (OCDA) office published reports from two completed investigations last week. The first dealt with a non-fatal, officer-involved shooting in Santa Ana; the suspect had tugged at his waistband, only to get slugged by police — all within policy. And all familiar territory.
The second is more curious, as it details an in-custody death — not of a homeless person, or someone felled by drug overdose, but of a fetus.
On March 13, 2012, Huntington Beach police arrested a woman identified in the report as "Lauren" for possession of a controlled substance. Because of a parole hold, authorities booked her into the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) Women's Main Jail. Lauren told staff there that she was 16 weeks pregnant and that both she and her boyfriend had agreed on aborting it when the relationship fizzled.
Having been unable to do so before she landed in custody, Lauren requested an abortion in mid-March. By the time the process began on April 4, 2012, at the Family Planning Associates Medical Group in Long Beach, an ultrasound determined her to be 20 weeks pregnant, requiring a three-day abortion. On April 11, Lauren returned to jail after the process began.
Around 1 a.m. the next day, Lauren complained of cramping; she sat on the can, believing she needed to relieve herself, when her pushing caused the unresponsive fetus to drop into the toilet while still attached via its umbilical cord. Authorities transferred Lauren and "Fetus M." to Saint Joseph Hospital in Orange. Doctors concluded Lauren suffered an incomplete abortion and that the fetus was stillborn.
Everything about the procedure complied with the Reproductive Privacy Act and federal law. OCDA investigators saw no reason to file charges against anyone involved.
In the other, more typical investigation letter issued by the OCDA this week, prosecutors cleared Santa Ana police officer David Garcia in the non-fatal shooting of 27-year-old Ignacio Leon. On the night of Dec. 15, 2012, Leon arrived drunk at his mom's apartment on East Washington Avenue in Santa Ana. He began fighting with his girlfriend until other men physically removed him. A neighbor called the cops at 11:45 p.m. after hearing arguing.
As Garcia and his partner were speaking to local residents, Leon dashed past them, scaling a wall into a back yard. The police gave chase until Garcia spotted Leon. The suspect was ordered to show his hands, but replied, "Fuck you, I'm going to kill you instead!" The cop held his position, but Leon meddled with his waistband and advanced. Within a few feet, he reached for Garcia's gun. Fearing for his life, the officer fired his first shot into Leon's chest, following up with two more rounds. The man turned out to be unarmed.
Leon survived two bullet wounds, but he declined to give any statement about what happened. Both officers spoke with investigators. The report cites resident testimony that corroborates key aspects of the police's version of events. "Officer Garcia's belief that Leon posed an imminent danger was reasonable under the circumstances," it reads. And with that, the OCDA justified the shooting.
Read both investigative letters in their entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2