PoliceOne Staff Report
(SANTA ANA, Calif.) -- After a yearlong probe, federal authorities said yesterday they would not bring charges against a police officer who shot and killed a suspected car thief. The 1998 shooting sparked racial tensions in the Latino community and prompted public protests.
"The evidence gathered during the course of our investigation led us to the conclusion that this case did not warrant a federal prosecution," Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office told the Los Angeles Times. The FBI also investigated the case.
Officer James F. Tavenner shot and killed Jose Manuel Campos when the suspect tried to flee during a stolen car check, according to authorities. Tavenner approached the car to question Campos when the suspect started the car and began to drive away. Tavenner, who had one hand on the driver's door, commanded Campos to stop several times and fearing he would be run over, fired one round into the man's ear, the Times reported.
Campos died the next day. Traces of heroine and alcohol were found in his blood by the medical examiner's office, the newspaper reported.
Campos' girlfriend, who was not identified, said that there was no threat and the officer was provoking Campos.
Activists expressed disappointment and suggested impropriety in the decision not to pursue the investigation further.
"I'm disappointed. This is just one more injustice in this case," said Josie Montoya, a spokeswoman for the League of United Latin American Citizens.
The city, earlier this year, paid the family of Campos $205,000 in a wrongful-death settlement.
Tavenner has since been transferred to the detective squad, the newspaper said.