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Report: Santa Maria officer justified in Oct. 2022 killing of armed man breaking into apartment

Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 18, 2023

A Santa Maria police officer in October 2022 who shot and killed a man armed with a knife that was attempting to break into an occupied apartment was found justified in his use of lethal force, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

The officers, prior to the fatal shot that killed 36-year-old Salvador Qual Meceda, had used less-lethal force in an attempt to subdue the Meceda, including a 40mm sponge projectile launcher and pepper ball munitions.

Meceda was armed with a hooked, serrated knife and a 12-inch metal file during the altercation in a residential area of southwest Santa Maria that started on Oct. 30, 2022, and continued into the early morning hours of Oct. 31, the report said. Meceda repeatedly ignored officers’ commands to drop the weapons.

A department-created video that contains footage from multiple angles of the incident was published in December 2022. That video can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Officers with the Santa Maria Police Department do not wear body cameras, according to an official with the department, so body-worn camera footage of the incident does not exist.

Meceda, who was determined posthumously to be high on methamphetamine and amphetamine, was killed by a single shot from a department-issued rifle fired by Officer Erik Hesch. The bullet hit Meceda’s C1 and C2 vertebrae.

At the time the shot was fired, Meceda was attempting to break into an apartment — then occupied by a mother and her 9-year-old child — by smashing the front glass window with a folding table, the report said.

The District Attorney’s Office determined, “based on the facts known and perceived at the time” by the officer, Officer Hesch was justified in his lethal use of force because Officer Hesch “reasonably believed that Meceda posed an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to the residents inside apartment #35,” the report said.

Meceda was initially confronted by a Santa Maria officer when attempting to dig through a dumpster in a trash enclosure, in violation of Santa Maria municipal code.

The situation escalated when Meceda threatened officers and ignored repeated commands.

Read the full Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office report, titled “Public Report On Officer Involved Shooting of Salvador Qual Meceda on October 31, 2022,” here.