Unarmed and Afraid: Police Shootings in the OC

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On Feb. 17, 27-year-old Santa Ana resident Travis S. Mock was shot by an Anaheim police officer in a quiet Anaheim Hills neighborhood. Authorities told the Orange County Register no weapon was recovered from the scene. It was last reported Mock had been sustaining non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital. After he was taken to the hospital, according to the Orange County Register, he was arrested on suspicion of theft of U.S. Mail and possession of stolen property and was placed on parole hold.

Authorities have not identified the officer but told the media the officer is a resident of the neighborhood. According to media reports, Mock was allegedly stealing mail when the officer shot him. At first it was reported the officer was off-duty and authorities later claimed the officer was on-duty.

The OC Register reported Mock has a record that includes felony burglary and drug charges. Although he had a criminal past, a question still remains: can the shooting be legally justified?

Now his family and friends are wanting answers from the police, according to the Register. However, just like many officer-involved shooting cases in Orange County, they are coming up empty-handed.

Mock may have survived his run-in with an Anaheim Police Officer, but many officer-involved shootings in Orange County prove fatal. The OC Register writes that between January 2006 and September 2010, there were 73 officer-involved shootings in Orange County, 42 of them fatal.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has never pressed charges against an officer involved in a shooting.

In October 2008, 20-year-old Julian Alexander was shot by an Anaheim Police Officer. Although authorities later admitted Alexander was innocent of any crime, the Orange County District Attorney found the shooting justified since Alexander was holding an end of a broomstick that appeared to a weapon.

35-year-old Caesar Cruz was shot and killed by an Anaheim Police Officer in December 2009. According to his family, they have never been informed of the circumstances surrounding his death. There is no information about what led to the shooting or if Cruz was armed at the time of the shooting. According to Cruz’s brother Joseph Cardenas, the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security are involved in the case.

On June 30, 2010, 25-year-old Julian Collender was fatally shot by the Brea Police with an assault rifle in front of his parents home in Yorba Linda. He had no criminal record and there are no reports stating he was armed. Collender’s family confronted Brea Police Chief Billy Hutchinson and the Yorba Linda City Council at a Council meeting in October. They have not received any answers from the Orange County District Attorney or the Brea Police Department. Chief Hutchinson retired in December after two years serving the post.

On Dec. 10, 2010, 21-year-old North Carolina resident Andres Ramirez was visiting family in Santa Ana when he was shot and killed by a police officer in an alley. The OC Register reported Ramirez’s fiancée Laura Juarez is seeking a lawsuit after a coroner’s report showed Ramirez was shot in the back of the head. Police claim Ramirez was brandishing a knife; however Juarez contends her fiancé did not own any weapons.

The Orange County District Attorney investigates all officer-involved shootings. Their representatives have stated to the media that investigations can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months. In December 2010, the Orange County District Attorney changed their officer-involved shooting investigation policy to be more transparent. It remains to be seen the effect this policy will have on past and future cases.

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