Pauline Repard; Staff Writer February 23, 2001, Friday Copyright 2001 The San Diego Union-Tribune The San Diego Union-Tribune February 23, 2001, Friday
(SAN DIEGO) -- Police legally opened fire on a murder suspect who aimed a rifle at them last fall, county prosecutors have determined. Officers believed Ruben Tadepa had just fatally shot a teen-age skateboarder in a Lomita neighborhood, and when he pointed a rifle at police, they were right to fire on him, District Attorney Paul Pfingst said in an analysis of the Nov. 28 incident.
Pfingst said Tadepa, 44, got out of his car and pointed a rifle at Detective Daniel Billberry. When Tadepa ignored officers' orders to drop the weapon, Billberry and patrol Officers Christopher Wilson and Michael Stacy began firing.
Twenty rounds later, Tadepa was still standing, though he suffered a small cut on his cheek. Authorities are not sure if Tadepa was grazed by a round or nicked by a glass shard from his car window shattered by bullets.
Tadepa is in jail. He is facing a murder trial in the shooting death of 17-year-old Raymond Lang, a neighbor's son. Lang had been skateboarding in the street with other teens, including Tadepa's son, when he was killed.
In a letter to San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano, Pfingst said the officers were justified in shooting Tadepa because they feared for their lives. He said witnesses confirmed that the officers yelled at Tadepa several times to drop his rifle, but that he pointed it at Billberry, who was in plain clothes.
Billberry, 37, is a 10-year police veteran assigned to the Narcotics Task Force. Wilson, 40, has been an officer for seven years, while Stacy had been with the department for eight months at the time of the shooting.