SANTA ANA – An Orange police officer was justified in fatally shooting a man armed with a box cutter who had threatened to kill himself and his landlady, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
The District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday released the findings of its investigation into the June shooting that left Joseph Thomas Brewer Jr. dead. According to the report, Orange police Officer Brian Chambers should not face criminal charges in the shooting, which evidence showed was reasonable under the circumstances.
According to the report, here is what happened that day:
Police were called to the home on North Shaffer Street around 12:50 a.m. June 12. Brewer, who appeared to be drunk, was acting loud and belligerent, a woman told police. The formerly homeless man had been staying in the garage of her home since moving from Louisiana a year before, she told police, and he now refused to go to his room. She added he had previously killed a woman in Louisiana and on several occasions threatened her. Officers advised her to pack up Brewer’s belongings and leave them outside the home with a note that he was no longer welcome.
Instead, Brewer returned to the backyard with a paper cup and a mostly empty bottle of wine, demanding to get into the locked garage to get his wallet. When the landlady said she had packed all his belongings, he squeezed into the garage through a dog door. As his landlady unlocked the door, she found him inside with a cup of white pills. He told her they were poison, and he threatened to kill himself.
He left the property, but as she walked from the garage to the house, she saw him on the sidewalk. He ran toward her, pulled a box-cutter knife, and threatened to kill her boyfriend and children. At some point, she was cut by the box cutter, but she told investigators she wasn’t sure when it occurred.
She called police just after 2 a.m. from the walkway. Chambers, one of the officers who had been at the home earlier, arrived and heard her and Brewer arguing.
Chambers saw Brewer reach toward his pocket, and the officer drew his gun. He ordered Brewer to put his hand up and get onto his knees. Instead, Brewer came toward the officer, asking “What are you going to do if I don’t?” The landlady shouted that he had a knife, which Chambers’ saw in the man’s right hand. With what Chambers described as an “intense stare,” Brewer continued to walk toward the officer, who again ordered him to get down. Brewer was about 5 feet away when Chambers shot him three times in the chest.
Another officer arrived at the scene and began first aid on Brewer. Paramedics took him to Western Medical Center Santa Ana, where he was pronounced dead several hours later.
According to the investigation, Chambers believed he and the woman were in danger of being stabbed. That belief was reasonable given several facts, the report continued. Brewer was armed with a knife and refused to obey Chambers’ commands. He came toward the officer with the blade pointed up, and Chambers was aware of his violent history.
“Brewer could easily have closed the gap between them and stabbed Officer Chambers,” the report said. “Officer Chambers was faced with an apparent deadly threat, and he responded with proportional force.”
By ERIC HARTLEY / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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