Video: Calif. officer fatally shoots man who grabbed at duty belt
While struggling on the ground, the man grabbed something from the officer's belt and the officer pulled out his gun
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A police officer fatally wounded a man Friday during a struggle outside a California convenience store that was captured on video by a bystander.
Although details about what prompted the confrontation remained sketchy, Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy said the video showed the officer was forced to defend himself. He added that the officer, who fired seven shots at the man, had a right to do so if he felt his life was in danger.
"This is clearly an assault on an officer," Handy told KCAL_TV outside the 7-Eleven store where the shooting took place Friday morning. "I don't know what preceded that assault, we don't know that yet, but clearly this person attacked our police officer, and I don't think that there's any way an officer is expected to not defend them self and that includes a lethal force at times," Handy said.
Two short clips posted on social media sites for the OC Hawk news service showed the encounter quickly turning violent.
One clip shows the officer struggling to subdue the man in a parking lot. While on the ground, the man grabs something from the officer's belt and the officer pulls out his gun and backs away.
In the second clip the man jumps to his feet and almost immediately is shot. Seven rounds can be heard as the man stumbles backward and then collapses against a wall.
The officer can then be heard speaking into his radio, saying, "The suspect is down."
The man doesn't appear to have a gun, but Handy said that didn't matter.
"Just because a person didn't have a weapon, if he's struggling with that officer and actively assaulting that officer and trying to take his weapon away, trying to take equipment from his belt that could harm him, he has every right and every responsibility. We train them to defend themselves with lethal force," Handy said.
The officer had been speaking with the man outside the convenience store before the confrontation suddenly turned violent, said Officer Angela Bennett, a police spokeswoman.
Police released little other information.
"We're still in the very early stages of this investigation," Bennett said.
The shooting occurred in the vicinity of Marina High School, which was briefly put on lockdown as a precaution.
Earlier this month two Huntington Beach police officers were wounded in a confrontation with a man who had allegedly been slashing tires with a knife.
Police determined the officers' minor wounds were the result of "friendly fire," meaning they were struck by their own gunfire. The tire-slashing suspect was also wounded.