DA: Law enforcement acted responsibly in 12 shootings, in-custody deaths

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SAN DIEGO -- District Attorney Summer Stephan Friday reviewed four in-custody deaths and eight shootings involving law enforcement over the past year, saying the officers and sheriff's deputies involved acted "reasonably" and bear no criminal responsibility.

Stephan told reporters that in all four in-custody deaths she reviewed, toxicology tests revealed that the person who died had methamphetamine in his system. Some of the reviews included body-worn camera and other graphic video of the deaths.

In the case of 37-year-old Oscar Leal, he died after being pepper- sprayed by sheriff's deputies during his arrest in February, Stephan said. Deputies had gone to Leal's home in Vista and arrested him when he failed a sobriety test. On the way to jail, Leal kicked the backseat of the patrol car and was pepper-sprayed.

Leal continued to struggle with deputies at the Vista jail, was sprayed again, and died when deputies attempted to put him on a gurney. Leal was taken to a hospital where he died, Stephan said.

Stephan also reviewed the April 19 death of Guillermo Corrales, who died three days after being arrested by San Diego police. Family members had called 911 for medics, saying Corrales was violent with them and on drugs. Officers handcuffed Corrales, 39, so medics could evaluate him, but he went into cardiac arrest and died three days later at a hospital. Corrales had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system, Stephan said.

In the case of 34-year-old Kristopher Birtcher, sheriff's deputies went to the Hobby Lobby store in San Marcos amid reports of a man possibly on drugs. During a struggle with deputies, Birtcher was stunned with a Taser and put in hand and leg restraints. Birtcher -- who had methamphetamine in his system -- stopped breathing and died, Stephan said.

The district attorney said 39-year-old Paul Silva died March 28 after San Diego police booked him into jail a month earlier. In his jail cell, Silva was acting erratically and sheriff's deputies fired water balls and a Taser at him before taking him to the ground, according to a lawsuit filed by his family. Silva's mother said her son was on methamphetamine and had a history of schizophrenia. He went into cardiac arrest after being taken down in his cell and died a month later.

Stephan also reviewed the July 20 officer-involved shooting of 21-year- old Jose Trujillo, who was wounded by two sheriff's deputies at the Torrey Preserve marsh after leading them on a pursuit. The deputies had initially stopped Trujillo on suspicion of drunk driving, but the suspect drove away, and was shot at the marsh when he took a shooting stance with something in his hands, Stephan said. Trujillo pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.

In the case of 20-year-old Jason Santana, Stephan said San Diego police officers saw him and a passenger in a stolen car, drinking, at the Kearny Mesa Recreation Center  in Linda Vista on Nov. 29, 2017. Santana started up the car and backed up toward an officer, who fired one round, hitting Santana in the arm.

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