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Anaheim officer cleared in fatal shooting of 22-year-old

December 7, 2012 | 12:24 pm

An Anaheim police officer has been cleared in the death of a 22-year-old man who had taken off running before he was fatally shot.

Orange County prosecutors, who investigate officer-involved shootings, noted in their probe that a gun had tumbled from Marcel Ceja’s clothing as he ran and that, after he finally halted, he appeared to be reaching in his clothing, leading the officer to fear he had another weapon.

Officer David Garcia told investigators that he saw a handgun fall from the suspect's sweat shirt during the chase and that when Ceja stopped he appeared to manipulate what Garcia believed to be a handgun in his pocket, according to prosecutors.

"I expected him to give up,” the officer told investigators. “Since he was not doing what I expected, I immediately started believing he had another gun."

The officer reported that he ordered Ceja to show his hands three different times and then, fearing for his life, fired two shots at Ceja.

An eyewitness told investigators that she heard Garcia yell three times for the man to pull his hands out of his pockets. She said that Ceja replied with obscenities.

After the shooting, Ceja was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he died.

Prosecutors determined that Garcia had a reasonable belief that he needed to defend himself given Ceja's style of clothes, a large tattoo on his neck, and the fact that he dropped a gun as he ran and kept his hands hidden during the encounter.

Ceja was one of three people shot to death by Anaheim police in 2011. Those incidents, as well as more recent shootings, have led to protests and street violence.


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-- Richard Winton

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Photo: Pedestrians pass store windows broken during protests last summer against police conduct. Credit: Los Angeles Times