District attorney: Police justified in shooting DuBose
Two officers who fatally shot former pro football player Demetrius DuBose during a confrontation were legally justified because they feared the athlete was going to attack them, the district attorney said Monday.
"The officers really didn't have a choice," said District Attorney Paul Pfingst. "They had to shoot."
DuBose, 28, a former player for Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Notre Dame, was advancing on the officers with a martial arts weapons when they shot him 12 times, Chief David Bejarano said in a statement.
Officers Timothy Keating and Robert Wills, who have been on desk duty since the July 24 shooting, will not face criminal charges. Two years ago, Keating was also cleared of wrongdoing when he fatally shot a drunken man who rushed at him waving four knives, said Gayle Falkenthal, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.
San Diego police chief David Bejarano agreed with the district attorney's findings.
"I believe that the district attorney's findings are correct, and that the officers involved in the shooting were justified in their actions," Bejarano said.
DuBose's relatives, who have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the two officers, weren't surprised with the findings.
"They were disappointed, but not shocked," family attorney Brian Watkins said.
The shooting prompted a series of protests and accusations of racial bias against the police department because DuBose was black and the two officers are white.
Pfingst posted on the Internet 368 pages of documents, including witness statements and testimony from the two police officers.
Those documents show that the shooting stemmed from a call of a burglary by a San Diego resident who told authorities he found DuBose sleeping in his house. When officers arrived, DuBose initially complied with questions but began to walk away when they tried to place handcuffs on him, Officer Keating told investigators.
After Wills sprayed DuBose with Mace, the situation quickly escalated. DuBose ran away from the officers as they tried to handcuff him. Keating jumped on his back, but was thrown off.
The officers chased DuBose, cornering him outside a corner store on Mission Boulevard, a busy street a block off the ocean.
"This guy was really big. And the officers weren't small either, but they were definitely losing," witness Henry Parra, a San Francisco police department lieutenant, told police.
Officers said DuBose charged at them after he took away their nunchukas, a martial arts weapon of two hard plastic sticks joined by a short chain of rope.
"He was rolling them in his hands like he was going to come and do damage to us, like he was going to hurt us with those nunchakus," Keating told homicide investigators. " ... I yelled at him `drop the sticks!' He took another step and I began firing at him."
An autopsy report showed that DuBose had traces of the drug Ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol in his blood at the time.
The shooting will now be reviewed by the Police Department's internal affairs unit and San Diego's Citizen Review Board on Police Practices, Bejarano said.
DuBose, a native of Seattle, was a linebacker for Notre Dame. After graduating, he was drafted in 1993 by the Buccaneers and played four seasons. His football career ended in 1997 and he took up beach volleyball.
All News Stories for Wednesday, November 3, 1999