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Santa Maria Police Department releases video of officer-involved shooting

Posted at 11:24 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 02:24:06-04

The Santa Maria Police Department released new dash-camera video on Sept. 1, shedding light on an officer-involved shooting that took place near Boomers in June.

The video has to be released by law after the investigation is complete, but the police decided to release the video themselves early to help explain their actions and be "more transparent."

On June 21, Santa Maria Police responded to reports of a man waving a gun outside of Boomers near North Preisker Lane.

People sheltered in place as officers made their way to the scene.

"The officer arrived a few minutes later and located the suspect near North Preisker Lane and Broadway. [He was] near a Wendy's, a very short distance from Boomers. The officer ordered the suspect to get down on the ground, sit down, or drop the gun more than 20 times in both English and Spanish," Sgt. Felix Diaz of the Santa Maria Police Department said in the video.

Police said the suspect pulled the gun out of his waistband and extended his hand with the gun towards the officer.

Ultimately, the officer shot the suspect.

Police said the man, later identified as 32-year-old Domingo Perez Montejo, was immediately treated for his non-life-threatening injuries and transported to Marian Regional Medical Center.

Montejo's weapon turned out to be an imitation Beretta pistol and police said this was just one of 26 previous contacts officers have had with him since 2016.

"It looked exactly like a real gun and there's no way you could determine from that distance if it's real or fake; you have to react otherwise you're the one that can end up being shot. So the officer's actions were how he was trained and based on the limited video I've reviewed, he really didn't have much of a choice," Steve Tolley, a former law enforcement officer and current Cuesta College professor, said.

Tolley said he applauds the police department for releasing this video and says incidents like these have rippling impacts on everyone involved.

"Most police officers can go their entire career and never involve in a deadly force incident. Unfortunately, when officers do go through a deadly force incident, it has a huge impact on the person who was shot, the officer himself and the officer's family," Tolley said.

Advocacy groups like Santa Maria Youth Abolitionists say the video leaves more to be desired.

"Instead of transparency, we're a lot more interested in how they will react and ensuring that situations like that don't happen in our community," Member Valentina Ramirez Gomez said.

They believe the video shows the system failed Montejo.

"It just seems to send a strong message that if you are an individual struggling with mental health issues it's likely the police won't be there to receive you and won't be there to protect you," Ramirez Gomez said.

This shooting is now a part of two separate investigations: a criminal investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and an investigation by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office to determine if the shooting was lawful.

The Santa Maria Police Department said it is also doing its own investigation to evaluate response and if the use of deadly force adhered to policies.

This is the first officer-involved shooting in Santa Maria this year and the third officer-involved shooting since 2016.