DA clears police of criminal wrongdoing for fatal shooting in February 2022 | January 13, 2023 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 13, 2023

DA clears police of criminal wrongdoing for fatal shooting in February 2022

Two PPD officers found to be justified in lethal actions against Cody Chavez

by Jeanita Lyman

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has concluded no criminal charges will be filed against the two police officers who shot and killed a man armed with a knife outside a Pleasanton apartment while responding to a domestic violence call that turned into a standoff early last year.

The announcement came following the conclusion of a 10-month-plus investigation into the death of Cody Chavez, and the release of a report from the DA's officer-involved shooting (OIS) team that was shared publicly last Friday after internal review starting Dec. 5.

"After careful review, the District Attorney's Office concluded the officers' use of deadly force was necessary in the defense of others and the involved officers will not be charged with a crime," Pleasanton Police Department Lt. Erik Silacci said in a statement Friday afternoon.

PPD officers Brian Jewell and Mario Guillermo were found by investigators from the OIS team to have been legally justified in killing 33-year-old Chavez outside an apartment on 4899 Willow Road on Feb. 17, 2022 when he approached police with a knife and failed to respond to commands that he drop the weapon before running toward the officers.

"All available evidence indicates that officers Jewell and Guillermo were justified in believing Cody Chavez posed a significant threat of death or serious bodily injury to others," the OIS team concluded in their report, adding that there is insufficient evidence to criminally prosecute the two officers.

The investigation into Chavez's death was undertaken and concluded under the administration of now-former district attorney Nancy O'Malley, although the report was first made public on Friday, three days after newly elected District Attorney Pamela Price took office.

Price had been critical of the Chavez shooting in the days after it occurred in the middle of the primary election campaign. "Witness videos contradict the story told by lawyers for the police officers involved in the shooting. It is clear that an independent investigation needs to be implemented," Price said in a statement at the time. "(D)omestic violence should not be a death sentence -- not for the victim and not for the perpetrator."

The DA's office, now under Price's oversight, offered a comment to the Weekly about the final OIS report on Tuesday.

"The investigation and report regarding the officer-involved shooting of Cody Chavez was conducted under former District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and has her signature. District Attorney Pamela Price has the authority to review and/or reopen any case."

PPD officers first responded to a domestic violence call at the Galloway Apartments at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2022 where they attempted to contact Chavez and enter the apartment following a report from the resident of an apartment -- a woman in a romantic relationship with Chavez -- who said that he'd beaten her and attempted to smother her with a pillow the previous night.

Chavez, who was seen peering through the blinds at one point, refused to answer the door, and locked it repeatedly after officers attempted to gain access via a code provided by the resident, according to the DA's report.

Pleasanton police fortified their response, with a SWAT team and armored response vehicle (ARV) arriving at the scene at 1:40 p.m., followed by a crisis negotiation team at 2:10 p.m. who attempted to speak to Chavez by phone and text, with Chavez responding at 2:52 p.m. and 3:10 p.m. but denying that he was in the apartment.

Despite denying his presence in the apartment, officers had evidence from the resident that he was inside and aware of the police response outside in the form of screenshots of text messages he'd sent her during the standoff.

"They gonna kick this door in and kill me," Chavez said in a text message to the resident. "That's what they will do."

During what came to be an approximately three-hour-long standoff, officers also obtained a warrant for Chavez' arrest for assault and imprisonment of the resident of the apartment.

Tactical officers then attempted to deploy a wheeled robot with cameras and a two-way communication system into the apartment after forcing the door open. Chavez, who was behind the door, was able to throw the robot outside and close the door again, with police confirming his identity and being made aware of the kitchen knife he was holding via intelligence from the robot, according to the report.

Officers then attempted to deploy a drone after breaking a window, with Jewell and Guillermo standing by to provide cover with lethal weapons, with the former positioned in the turret of the armored vehicle. Chavez exited the front door with the approximately eight-inch Faberware kitchen knife in hand, and began running toward officers at the window, according to the report.

When bean bag rounds from other officers, as well as commands to drop the knife, failed to deter Chavez, Jewell and Guillermo fired a total of seven rounds at Chavez that struck the suspect, according to the report. Chavez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although the report indicates that Chavez was killed by Jewell and Guillermo, investigators point to the threat that Chavez could be considered to pose to the officers he was running toward, including video of the encounter and statements from Jewell, Guillermo and the other officers at the scene.

Jewell told investigators in a statement that he believed Chavez intended to kill the officers at the window, and that he believed he would have done so had Jewell not fired at that time. Guillermo also said that he feared for the lives of the officers Chavez was approaching.

The DA's report concludes that Jewell and Guillermo's deadly use of force against Chavez, based on the facts of the incident obtained in their investigation, was justified under relevant California law regarding police use of force.

"The overwhelming, credible, and admissible evidence shows that Officer Jewell and Officer Guillermo acted lawfully in defense of other officers," investigators wrote in the report's conclusion.

In addition to finding the homicide justified under relevant state law, investigators pointed to the hours-long standoff and use of less-lethal weapons as initial lines of response to the situation, with deadly force only coming into play when other methods had failed.

"The Pleasanton Police Department values the sanctity of life and extends its sincere condolences to everyone affected by this event," Silacci said in Friday's statement.

This was the third fatal police shooting, and fourth in-custody death overall, involving Pleasanton police officers since 2015 -- all of which were deemed as justifiable homicide by the DA's office under the O'Malley administration.

View the full DA's office report into Chavez's death, as well as the officers' bodyworn camera footage and other relevant investigative details released by Pleasanton PD, on the city's "Policing in Pleasanton" website at policing.cityofpleasantonca.gov.


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