[UPDATED with Sheriff's Reaction:] DA Clears Deputy Darren Sandberg in Fatal Shooting of Marine Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr.

See Update No. 3 at the end of this post on Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' reaction.

See Update Nos. 1 and 2 on the Orange County District Attorney's office declining to pursue criminal charges against Deputy Darren Sandberg and the sheriff's deputy union reaction.

ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 28, 12:37 P.M.: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is holding a 1 p.m. roundtable with the media “to discuss the investigation findings and legal conclusions regarding
the Orange County Sheriff's Department officer-involved-shooting
involving Manuel Loggins,” according to the DA's office.

Sgt. Manuel Levi “Manny” Loggins, Jr. is the Camp Pendleton Marine gunned down in front his daughters at San Clemente High School early Feb. 7 by Deputy Darren Sandberg.

See also:

Manuel Levi “Manny” Loggins Jr.'s Family Sues County and Sheriff Over Marine's Slaying

Manuel Levi Loggins Jr.: Attorney for Family of Marine Slain by Deputy Defends “Crash” Video

Darren Sandberg: Questions Surround I.D.'ing Deputy Who Fatally Shot Marine Sergeant

Sandberg, who'd served in the Marines, shot and killed Loggins at the high school track where h held early-morning prayer walks with his daughters, who were in the back of the family SUV to witness the shooting.

The sheriff's department and deputies union have defended Sandberg, maintaining that Loggins crashed through a gate to reach the track, was acting erratically when confronted by the deputy and had to be taken out to protect the girls.

The Loggins family, which is suing the county for alleged wrongful death, the family's attorney and everyone from Camp Pendleton brass down to co-workers have defended Loggins as a thoughful, Christian family man.

More to come, obviously . . .

UPDATE NO. 1, SEPT. 28, 3:50 P.M.: The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) acknowledges that if several “what-ifs” had played out, the morning of Feb. 7, 2012, probably would not have ended so tragically for the family of Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins Jr.

Dan Wagner, head of OCDA Homicide Unit, told reporters at this afternoon's media roundtable in Santa Ana that at the time Deputy Darren Sandberg had his gun drawn on Loggins,
a second Deputy Carpenter could have turned off the SUV's ignition and taken out the
keys (let alone Loggins' daughters).

Susan Price, Wagner's deputy district attorney partner, admitted that had Loggins been allowed to drive off, he really had no where
to go. Sandberg's unit blocked access on a campus road back to San Clemente city streets, and
continuing up the path would have led to a hillside. Loggins' white GMC Yukon SUV was essentially pinned in.

But in determining whether to file criminal charges against Sandberg, the OCDA, by statutes supported by U.S. Supreme Court decisions, must narrow its focus to what was reasonable for an officer to do at the time of the incident. Cops are given wide latitude legally when it comes to defending themselves and others while in “imminent danger.”

Based on those rulings and the evidence, the OCDA would not be able to prove to a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that Sandberg acted criminally, Wagner said of a decision District Attorney Tony Rackauckas had cautioned had come after “serious, intensive investigation.”

Here is the scenario Price laid out for the TV cameras: Loggins had been taking his two daughters, ages 9 and 14, to the high school for track practice for about a month before the incident. Some times, his wife and third daughter, a toddler, would also join him there for a family bible study, as they attended a church in Irvine.

But on this day, with the 14-year-old in the front passenger seat and the 9-year-old in the right rear seat, Loggins speeded as he drove his SUV about 40 mph from the city street to a path that leads around the campus. Sitting in his sheriff's car in the parking lot to fill out his log as his shift was end was Sandberg, who heard the screech of tires and collision near the boy's locker room area.

The girls later said their father was acting strangely during the ride, with one saying he ran a red light just before entering the campus. The 9-year-old said that the day before, when the whole family was at the school, Loggins said something about shooing Satan away.

Sandberg arrived at the path near the boy's locker room to discover the SUV had driven through a thick metal barricade, half of which was still hanging while the other half was wedged under the Yukon, which had sustained “extensive” damage to the front end. The deputy turned on his colored lights and spotlight as it was still dark out at 4:45 a.m.

He then got out of his police unit, drew his gun and ordered Loggins to stop, but the Marine walked to the turnstile leading to the campus athletic fields. Sandberg opened the rear door of the still-running SUV and asked the girls if they were all right. By then the 14-year-old had climbed over the seat to comfort the 9-year-old, who was crying.

Sandberg called dispatch to say he was on the scene of a hit and run with possible child endangerment. That brought out other deputies who set up a perimeter and Deputy Carpenter, who also drew his weapon on Loggins.

Audio and video evidence, which Wagner says the DA's office will not be releasing to the public, reveal that Sandberg sternly told Loggins “Show me your hands,” and that Loggins replied back, “I've got somewhere to go.” After both took a little walk onto the field, Loggins said, “Give me my kids back” as he walked back toward the SUV.

As Loggins passed Sandberg, the deputy moved away to keep the Marine out of reach, and the lawman told investigators he feared Loggins might try to take away the cop's gun or baton. Loggins was also holding an object the deputy could not make out. It turned out to be a bible.

Loggins continued to ignore orders to stop, walking around the rear of the SUV to the open driver's side door. “Don't get in that car or I'll shoot you,” Sandberg says before Loggins climbed in and shut the door, with Sandberg and Carpenters' weapons pointed at him.

Twenty-seven second later, the SUV's red rear lights lit up.

Sandberg fired three times into the engine block area of the car. Loggins was struck three times by the rounds that passed through the driver's side window. He died about an hour later at Mission Hospital. Carpenter removed the girls from the SUV, which had been shifted into drive.

Among the evidence used to clear the deputy were:

  • Sandberg saying in his statements Loggins had something in his hand, that he showed no regard for his daughter's well-being, that his body was “rigid” with “jaws clenched” and “speaking through his teeth” like perps the cop had encountered who were “psychotic or on drugs.” Having been informed by the girls Loggins was a Marine, as the deputy had been, Sandberg could not understand why commands from a man in uniform were being ignored, calling Loggins “irrational,” refusing “to listen to reason” and “on some kind of mission.”
  • Carpenter saying Loggins was “stiff armed and stiff legged” with “a very determined and mean look on his face.”
  • Loggins own daughters saying their father had been speeding and mumbling.

Price said the 9-year-old said in her statements that she was afraid her father who drive forward and “go boom” into a building. As for the shooting, she said, “I was afraid and I think the officer was, too. So that's why he shot him, so we wouldn't get hurt.”

It was ensuring the girl's safety that Sandberg says prompted him to fire. “He speaks with passion and conviction about his concern for the safety of the girls,” Price says.

Sandberg only had his gun, a baton and pepper spray, having not been trained to use a Taser gun. The only Taser gun on scene was in the car of a deputy who'd been ordered to work the perimeter, Wagner said. Sandberg feared that he would give Loggins “the advantage” if it came to hand-to-hand combat had the deputy tried to switch out his gun for the baton or spray, the prosecutor said.

By the time Loggins got into the SUV and closed the door with a rolled-up window, using the baton, spray or a stun gun were moot anyway, Wagner noted.

He made a point of saying Loggins was, by all accounts, “a good guy,” with no criminal record, 14 years in the service and active church membership. Other possible contributing factors to explain Loggins' behavior were his family being near the
end of a religious fast, which included the Marine taking a break from
prescription Adderall. But when it comes to all that, as well as the “what-ifs,” they are irrelevant to what the OCDA was charged to determine in its investigation, the prosecutor noted.

Rackauckas said the Camp Pendleton commandant, who had been critical of the Orange County Sheriff's Department and deputy union's characterizations of Loggins, had been informed previously about the OCDA's conclusions. Before the district attorney could answer when asked how the Marine official took the news, his Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder interjected, “It would be more respectful if that came from him,” meaning the commandant. (The Weekly is waiting to hear back.)

Perhaps the most conscious in the room as to how the findings would be perceived, Schroeder later made a point of saying the OCDA did not intend to be “insensitive” to the Loggins family by citing the girls' words, noting Sandberg's defense “definitely would have used those statements.”

“We feel so bad for the family,” Schroeder said.

UPDATE NO. 2, SEPT. 28, 4:20 P.M.: The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs just emailed over the following:


Deputies' Association Issues Statement on San Clemente Shooting

District Attorney's Office Clears Sheriff's Deputy of Criminal Wrongdoing in Feb. 7 Incident

SANTA ANA, CA, September 28, 2012- The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs issued the following statement in response to the Orange County District Attorney's findings regarding the February 7, 2012 deputy-involved shooting in San Clemente:

“Having to decide in mere seconds of whether to use deadly force is the heaviest of many burdens that come with the badge,” said Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. “That decision is not one that is made lightly, but law enforcement officers are often called on to take actions that they do not want to take, but are forced to take in order to protect the lives of others. The loss of any life is tragic.”

“We appreciate the thorough and complete investigation conducted by the Orange County District Attorney's Office,” Dominguez said.

UPDATE NO. 3, SEPT. 28, 4:42 P.M.: One reaction deserves another. While the Weekly left phone messages with Camp Pendleton that were not being returned (so far), this came from the Orange County Sheriff's Department:

OC District Attorney Releases Conclusions of Deputy Involved Shooting

SAN CLEMENTE, California (September 28, 2012) – The Orange County District Attorney released a report today on the investigative and legal conclusions regarding the fatal deputy involved shooting of Marine Sergeant Manuel Loggins, Jr. in San Clemente on February 7, 2012.

“The Loggins family lost a beloved husband and father. Anytime someone's life is taken, it's a tragedy for all involved,” Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said. “The District Attorney's office conducted a thorough investigation and we respect their conclusions.”

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