GARDEN GROVE – An officer was justified in shooting and killing a 16-year-old boy who stabbed him after he and several other undercover officers witnessed a robbery in 2011, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has determined.
Officer Bryan Devor was acting in self-defense when he fired at Joao Kerubin Palma while trying to detain the occupants of a vehicle in connection with the robbery of a woman in a nearby alley, a report released Tuesday by the District Attorney’s Office said.
Devor and three other members of the Garden Grove Police Department’s Career Criminal Apprehension Team were in a parking lot at the intersection of Galway Street and Garden Grove Boulevard at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26, 2011, when they witnessed what appeared to be a robbery, the report said.
A Chevrolet Malibu pulled into the parking lot at the same time a woman was walking eastbound from the parking lot into the north alley at Belfast Drive. A male, whom authorities later identified as Palma, got out of the Malibu and followed the woman into the alley with an “unknown object” in his hand, according to the report.
The woman reported seeing Palma run toward her with a knife in his hand. She told investigators that he took her cellphone and lipstick before running back in the direction of the vehicle.
The officers saw Palma walk quickly back to the Malibu, which then sped out of the parking lot with its tires squealing, the report said.
As two officers talked with the victim of the robbery, Devor and the fourth officer said they followed the Malibu onto Galway Street. Devor, dressed in street clothes with a police badge hanging from his neck, drew his pistol and walked toward the Malibu, according to the report.
Devor told investigators that he knocked on the driver’s-side window and displayed his badge, verbally identified himself as a police officer and told the driver of the Malibu to shut off the engine.
The driver looked at him through the window, then turned and looked forward as the car began to move, Devor told investigators.
Palma, sitting behind the driver, reached out of the vehicle and grabbed Devor’s forearm while raising his right hand and holding an “unknown object,” the report said. At the same time, Devor told investigators, he heard the engine of the Malibu “rev” and the car began to move into the intersection, forcing him to step quickly to avoid getting dragged.
Believing Palma was trying to kill him, Devor told investigators, he fired three rounds from his pistol. After the shots were fired, Devor was able to break free from Palma’s grip, the report said, and the Malibu fled westbound on Garden Grove Boulevard.
It wasn’t until the car drove away that Devor realized he had been stabbed, he told investigators.
The officers called in the shooting, describing to dispatchers the make of the vehicle and its license plate number. Several minutes later, dispatchers received a call from another occupant of the Malibu indicating that her friend had been shot.
Officers found the Malibu parked on Magnolia Avenue south of Garden Grove Boulevard. Palma was pronounced dead at the scene, while another occupant of the vehicle was taken to Garden Grove Medical Center after a bullet grazed one of her arms.
D.A. investigators wrote that at the moment of the shooting, Devor “feared for his own life, both from the assault by Palma and by the danger of being dragged and/or run over by the rear tires of the car.” As a result, they concluded that “acting out of that fear alone, he used reasonable force to defend himself.”
By SEAN EMERY/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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