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DA rules four fatal deputy shootings justified

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego County District Attorney's office deemed four deputy-involved shootings from last year justified on Friday, releasing letters detailing their findings from an investigation of each incident.

The announcement was made public at a late morning news conference in downtown San Diego.

The four fatal shootings that were reviewed happened between March and July of last year. The following is what is known about the shootings based on initial sheriff's department investigations:

-- On March 2, 10-year department veteran Deputy Brian Bloomberg shot 34-year-old Isidro Bazan Jr. after the transient had broken into an occupied home in the 600 block of Edgewater Drive in San Marcos, sheriff's officials said. With the family of four locked in upstairs bedrooms, Bazan allegedly stole a family vehicle from the garage, crashed it as he fled and threatened to kill deputies with a Glock 40 pistol he claimed to be carrying.

When Bazan rushed at deputies holding an item to his head, one deputy fired a beanbag round while Bloomberg fired two shots from his service gun, Lt. Greg Rylaarsdam said. One of the rounds struck Bazan in the chest and he died at the scene. Deputies subsequently determined that Bazan had been carrying a dark-colored butane torch, not a pistol or other weapon.

-- On May 15, Deputy Noah Zarnow, who'd been with the department five years, opened fire on transient Emmanuel Ibarra, 34, when Ibarra allegedly rushed at the lawman and his partner holding a knife he previously used to attack a restaurant manager.

Sheriff's officials said the incident began when a man who'd just been kicked out of a Solana Beach Rubio's returned to the restaurant with a knife and attacked the manager who ejected him from the eatery, stabbing the victim in his head and face. The 49-year-old victim survived the attack.

Zarnow and another deputy soon spotted Ibarra, who matched the description of the assailant, near a stretch of train tracks beneath an elevated section of Via de la Valle in Del Mar, a few blocks south of the restaurant, Lt. Greg Rylaarsdam said. When the lawmen called out to him, Ibarra allegedly walked out from behind a concrete bridge support with a knife in his hand and strode toward the deputy closest to him, who lost his footing and fell down while backing away.

Zarnow then yelled at Ibarra, who turned and charged him, still clutching the knife, Rylaarsdam said. Zarnow responded by opening fire on the suspect with his service pistol, wounding him multiple times. Ibarra later died at a hospital.

-- On June 4, 23-year department veteran Deputy Richard Phillips shot and killed 66-year-old Bruce Dawley, who had called 911 to say he was suicidal and armed with a gun inside his home near Lake Morena County Park.

When deputies arrived at the home in the 2500 block of Gladiola Drive, they allegedly heard at least one gunshot from inside the home shortly before Dawley emerged from the front door holding a pistol. He allegedly fired at deputies, prompting Phillips to shoot back with a shotgun.

Initially there was some question as to whether Dawley's death had been self-inflicted or resulted from the deputy's return fire, but the county Medical Examiner's Office determined the shotgun blast struck Dawley in his body and inflicted the fatal wound.

-- On July 5, Deputy Christopher Villanueva, who'd been with the department for one year, and previously worked for the Escondido Police Department, opened fire on 24-year-old Vista resident Jonathon Coronel when the fleeing gang member allegedly made a threatening move during a confrontation in a neighborhood near Vista Village shopping center.

Sheriff's officials said Coronel had run from deputies who recognized him as a documented gang member, fleeing into the back yards of several homes and ultimately ending up behind a home in the 200 block of Knoll Road. That's where Villanueva -- who had been informed that Coronel was known to carry a handgun and allegedly had made threats to murder law enforcement officers -- found Coronel shirtless and crouched down with his right hand covered by his T- shirt.

Coronel allegedly turned to face the deputy while raising his shrouded arm toward him, Lt. Kenneth Nelson said. Fearing for his safety, Villanueva fired 12 to 15 rounds at him with his service pistol, and Coronel died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.

Coronel had no weapon on him at the time of the shooting, but may have discarded a knife and another makeshift dagger, which were found along the path Coronel took while trying to escape, Nelson said.