Video shows fatal OIS of armed man outside Ore. middle school
Officer Steve Timm shot Charles Landeros, 30, once in the head after Landeros moments earlier pulled out a handgun and fired twice in Timm's direction
By Christian Hill
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
EUGENE, Ore. — Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow cleared Thursday the two Eugene police officers involved in the Jan. 11 fatal shooting of Charles Landeros in front of Cascade Middle School, saying there's "no clearer circumstance that the use of deadly force is justified than this."
Officer Steve Timm shot Landeros, 30, once in the head after Landeros moments earlier pulled out a handgun and fired twice in Timm's direction. Landeros was struggling on the ground with a second officer, Aaron Johns, when Timm, who had not been injured, fired the fatal shot, according to a news release from Perlow and accompanying body cam video footage released by her office.
The struggle occurred as officers were arresting Landeros for failing to comply with their orders to leave the school. The officers were called to the school around 10:30 a.m. to mediate a custody dispute involving Landeros' daughter, who happened upon the scene moments before the shooting.
Perlow concluded that both officers acted appropriately in removing Landeros from the school and they had probable cause to arrest Landeros for disorderly conduct and trespass.
"Upon making the arrest, their lives, and the lives of others, were placed in danger by Mr. Landeros physically resisting that arrest, brandishing a firearm and firing it twice," Perlow said. "It is unknown why Charles Landeros chose to use deadly force in this circumstance, but he clearly had no regard for the lives of the police officers or the students or staff present, including his child."
She added: "Officer Timm saved the life of Officer Johns, himself and perhaps many others given the number of rounds Charles Landeros had loaded in his weapon. There is no clearer circumstance that the use of deadly force is justified than this."
The magazine in the gun Landeros drew was equipped with a device that expanded its capacity to 20 rounds from 18, which doesn't include the gun's chambered round. Landeros had a second magazine on a gun belt and was wearing a backpack that contained additional ammunition of a different caliber, Perlow said.
Video footage from the body cameras of the two officers show Landeros protesting the officers' order and then appearing to react to the daughter's appearance, shouting, "Go, go," and moving as Johns pushes Landeros out the school's front doors and against a wall outside. The footage also shows the ensuing struggle and Landeros drawing a weapon and pointing it at Timm prior to the fatal shooting. The entire physical altercation spanned about 23 seconds.
Two eyewitnesses confirmed Landeros drew a weapon and fired first, Perlow said. Landeros' daughter also witnessed the struggle and the shootings, she said.
Landeros' mother, brother and partner, through their attorney, Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, have said they'll hire experts to conduct an independent review of the shooting, voicing concerns about law enforcement's handling of investigations involving fatal shootings of people of color.
The law firm representing the family reaffirmed that commitment in a statement released Thursday night.
The statement said Landeros appeared to be trying to get the daughter's attention while moving toward the doors to exit in compliance with the officers' order.
"We know that issues involving a person's child are already tense and delicate situations with the potential to escalate. We also know that people of color are disproportionately the victims of police violence. We know that Charlie, as an activist against police brutality and a descendant of Mexican and Filipino parents, was aware of this," the statement said. "We do not know, however, what was going through Charlie's mind when they were shoved out of the door in front of their child and pinned to the wall. We also do not know why Officer Timm felt the need to aggressively shove Charlie through the door and against the wall as Charlie appears to exit the school."
Landeros' ex-wife said she appreciated the community's support for her and her daughters, but she declined further comment.
Landeros, who identified by the non-gender-specific pronouns they/their/them, was divorced and shared joint custody of their two daughters with Landeros' ex-wife. Landeros enrolled one of the daughters in the school several days before the incident without informing the ex-wife, Perlow said. Landeros' ex-wife learned of this and brought custody paperwork to the school. The school called Timm, the school resource officer, following the district's practice of calling in law enforcement to mediate custody disputes. The school also called Landeros. Johns, another school resource officer, responded when Timm called for assistance.
Perlow said Timm met with Landeros' ex-wife and reviewed the paperwork. Separately, Timm then advised Landeros that the paperwork indicated she "had shared custody and exclusive control over where (the child) attends school," Perlow said.
The couple's final divorce decree obtained by The Register-Guard awards joint custody of the two daughters to both parents but says that the mother's home should be the children's primary residence and she "shall have final decision-making authority for decisions involving medical care, education and the religion of the children."
"The conversation was respectful between Officer Timm and Charles Landeros, though Officer Timm reported concern that there would be a problem if Landeros was present if the mother exercised her right to remove the child from the school," Perlow said.
Landeros left the office but remained in the hallway to protest the officer's order when Landeros' daughter, who had started class the day before, came into the hallway "by coincidence," Perlow said.
Both Johns, 45, and Timm, 50, are veteran police officers; Johns has been on the force since 2001, and Timm since 2004.
The gun that Landeros drew during the struggle was a 9mm handgun purchased in December by the wife of Landeros' brother, from the brother's business, Community Armaments and Supplies, Perlow said.
Landeros obtained a concealed handgun license in February 2018. It is not illegal for someone with a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed weapon into a school.
Landeros started a group, Community Armed Self-Defense, that provided firearms training, particularly for people of color and the LGBTQ community. Landeros was one of the instructors.
Investigators found two empty 9 mm casings fired from Landeros' gun at the scene, Perlow said. Investigators were unable to find the bullets.
They also found two empty .45-caliber casings from the gun Timm fired. Timm fired one bullet that missed Landeros before firing the fatal shot, Perlow said.
Last year, the FBI received information on a tip line that Landeros was posting violent anti-government messages on social media, Perlow said. The tip was referred to the local FBI office, which concluded there wasn't enough information to show a crime had been committed, she said.
On Jan. 11, the Springfield Police Department linked on its Facebook page a story about a police officer in California who was shot and killed while investigating a traffic crash.
About an hour before the shooting, Perlow said, someone tipped the police department that a Facebook account with the name "Charlie Landeros" had commented "Death to all pigs" in a comment section of the post. The police department's social media manager attempted to locate the comment but both it and the "Charlie Landeros" Facebook account had been deactivated or deleted.
Two days earlier, SPD was alerted that a Facebook account with the name "Charlie Landeros" left a similar comment on a different story involving Portland police, Perlow said.
Landeros moved to Eugene in 1989. Landeros attended Cascade High School and graduated from Willamette High School in 2006. Landeros served six years in the Army as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Landeros' ex-wife and a close friend.
Landeros received an honorable discharge and left the military in 2012, according to family and public records. Landeros used the GI Bill to enroll in the University of Oregon two years later, majoring in public policy and management.
"My love for Charlie is forever," said Landeros' brother Joseph in the family's statement. "I just want them back. This never should have happened."
©2019 The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.)