Man Shot and Killed by Palm Springs Police Grabbed Officer's Hol - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News

Man Shot and Killed by Palm Springs Police Grabbed Officer's Holster, D.A.'s Office Finds

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Palm Springs, CA -

A suspect who was shot and killed by a Palm Springs policeman last year grabbed the officer's gun holster, prompting him to shoot the man twice in the stomach, according to a district attorney's report released Friday that concludes the shooting was justified.

Abraham Ortiz, 26, of Desert Hot Springs, was shot just after 1:30 p.m. last Nov. 4 in the parking lot of a Rite Aid store at 366 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

The District Attorney's Office found that Officer David Etchason, a two- year member of the department, was justified in firing on Ortiz because he believed the suspect was trying to grab his gun while he and another officer attempted to handcuff him in the parking lot.

The officers were initially called to the business because Ortiz was making threatening statements and racial and homophobic slurs, and was seen urinating in public and exposing himself, Palm Springs police Chief Bryan Reyes told reporters on the day of the shooting.

In addition to a witness hearing the racial and homophobic slurs, the assistant manager of the Rite Aid said Ortiz stole a shirt from the store, then threatened him with a knife when confronted, according to the "determination letter" sent to Reyes and signed by District Attorney Mike Hestrin and Chief Assistant District Attorney John Aki.

Etchason, along with Officer Michael Heron and Community Service Officer Juan Vasquez, searched Ortiz at the scene and found a screwdriver, methamphetamine and pipes on him, according to the D.A.'s findings.

The officers sat him down on a curb, but as they attempted to search him for further contraband, Ortiz began resisting and demanded his things back. The officers finally decided to handcuff him, which is when Ortiz latched onto Etchason's lower body, then reached for his gun, according to the letter.

Etchason told investigators he believed Ortiz was grabbing for his gun "to kill me with it. And then kill Mike (Heron) with it, kill Juan (Vasquez) with it, so he needed to be stopped."

Heron also told investigators that he saw Ortiz's hands near Etchason's gun and a civilian in the parking lot saw Ortiz's arm around Etchason's waist and that "it did look like he was going for his gun and the officer had every right to pull his gun out."

"Concerned that Ortiz could remove his gun and shoot him or the other officers, Officer Etchason removed his weapon and fired two shots into Ortiz's stomach," the letter concludes. "Officer Etchason acted in reasonable self- defense and he therefore bears no criminal responsibility for his actions."

The determination letter also states that Ortiz had a history of erratic behavior, prompting his family to call the police on him in 2015. Four officers were needed to restrain him that day, while in 2016, he was seen at a gas station brandishing a knife, according to the D.A.

The shooting came at a tense time for Palm Springs police, less than a month after the Oct. 8 shooting deaths of Palm Springs police Officers Jose "Gilbert" Vega and Lesley Zerebny.

Vega, 63, and Zerebny, 27, were gunned down as they responded to a family disturbance call at a Palm Springs residence. A third officer was wounded in the gunfire.

Their alleged killer, 26-year-old John Hernandez Felix, remains in custody, facing charges of murder, attempted murder and numerous firearm- related felonies.

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