A police officer was cleared by the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) in the fatal shooting of Dillan Tabares, a homeless mentally ill veteran, in Huntington Beach, California, on Sept. 22, 2017.
The Huntington Beach Police Department blocked the OC Weekly from learning the officer’s name via a public record request, but the OCDA ruling names Officer Eric Esparza as the cop who pulled the trigger.
Assistant district attorney Ebrahim Baytieh noted that Esparza refused to talk to investigators about shooting Tabares:
Officer Esparza refused to provide a statement to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. That’s not very relevant to us as far as the legality of the contact because police officers are allowed to have consensual contact with civilians when they see them on the streets…
There is no evidence to support a finding that there’s any criminal culpability on the part of officer Esparza. Our office is closing its inquiry into this matter.
Esparza’s body cam and video filmed by witnesses show Tabares, who was homeless, walking near a 7-Eleven store. Esparza approached Tabares for reasons unknown.
A witness claimed Tabares argued with Esparza who fired his Taser at Tabares who responded with a punch at Esparza.
They wrestled on the ground, and Tabares took a flashlight out of Esparza’s utility belt. Esparza pulled his gun, backed away, and shot Tabares five times, while missing him twice
When Officer Delwin Jensen arrived, Esparza stated on camera: “He tried to take my gun.”
Tiffany Tabares, Dillan’s mother, released a statement:
Our family is not surprised by the findings of the OC Sherriff. The days of police accountability are behind us. People saw the video. It didn’t lie. Slanted press conferences do not change what people saw for themselves.
People know what they felt. There will be another shooting, another investigation and another officer cleared. It is how it goes right now. Bad officers will be emboldened and good officers will be less trusted and less safe.
We need to come together as a community and change this formula for disaster that will undoubtedly result in more unnecessary deaths and the decay of a system created to protect and serve.
Baytieh, the assistant district attorney, said Tabares was released from state prison eight days before the shooting:
In March of 2016, Mr. Tabares was involved in an incident at a Del Taco where he viciously attacked an employee for no reason other than they asked him to leave the location. Our office prosecuted Mr. Tabares. He [pleaded] guilty to felony battery causing serious bodily injury.
After his release, Tabares failed to report to his parole officer and a judge ruled he was a “parolee at large” two days before the shooting, which Huntington Beach police didn’t know when Tabares was shot.
(Source: OC Weekly)