Man killed by Escondido officer was well known to police, still unidentified

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. – The man who an officer fatally shot early Wednesday in Escondido was well known by the department, according to the city’s top cop.

Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso addressing a fatal police shooting on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (Escondido Police Department)

Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso did not publicly identify the man nor the officer who shot and killed him just after 7 a.m. near the intersection of Broadway and 2nd Avenue. Officers responded to the area Wednesday after receiving reports of an adult white male hitting cars with a metal pole.

Varso claims an officer gave the man multiple commands to drop the pole — described as a 2-foot-long metal pry tool — but that he continued holding it “in a threatening manner” while advancing toward the officer.

“The male continued to advance on the officer who was backing away and he was ultimately shot,” Varso said in a video statement posted to YouTube.

A lieutenant previously told FOX 5 that the victim was believed to be homeless and living in the area.

Varso said police had arrested the man nearly 200 times since 2002 for assaults, drug charges and vandalism, among other alleged offenses. Additionally, he claims the county’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Team attempted multiple times to place him in a “mental health support system” but had been unsuccessful.

“In fact, just this year, we already have responded to over 20 calls for service involving this individual,” he said.

Following Wednesday’s shooting, a handful of protesters showed up with signs outside of Escondido Police Department headquarters.

Leyel Malave, an organizer with We The People Escondido, called for “full accountability for the officer and for the full transparency from the department.”

“We need to know what’s going on,” Malave said. “We need to see the footage for ourselves and to have full transparency there and to have the officers held accountable when they take someone’s life when it wasn’t necessary.”

Portions of body-worn camera footage soon will be released, according to Varso, who has been with the department for two decades, leading it since January 2020.

The shooting remains under investigation. Investigators are interviewing witnesses and processing evidence from the scene. Varso said the process also includes an independent review by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

“You have my commitment that a complete and accurate investigation will be completed,” the chief said. “We will be transparent and sharing the facts and the body-cam video as the investigation progresses.”

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