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Thu March 21, 2013
Officer Involved In Shooting That Led To Unrest In Anaheim Is Cleared
The officer, whose shooting of a young man in the back sparked days of protests in Anaheim, Calif., will not face charges, an Orange County prosector decided on Wednesday.
"The Orange County District Attorney's office spent months investigating whether to file to charges against Nick Bennallack, the officer who shot Manuel Diaz, 25, as he ran away from officers.
'The evidence does not support a finding of criminal culpability against Officer Bennallack,' Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner told a Santa Ana news conference. 'The reason why is there is significant evidence his actions were justified when he shot Manuel Diaz.'"
"Bennallack was justified because he believed he was in imminent danger of being shot by Diaz, said Wagner."
As we reported at the time, Diaz's shooting led to days of near riots in which demonstrators set dumpsters on fire and hurled rocks and other objects at police dressed in riot gear.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Dana Douglas, the Diaz family attorney, called the district attorney's findings "biased."
"They are on the same team," Douglas told the paper. "Frankly, I could have written their report the day after the shooting."
The family, he told the paper, was in tears when they learned about the report.
The Orange County Register reports Diaz was a "convicted gang member." Bennallack fired his weapon twice "one hitting Diaz in the back-right side of his head, the other hitting him in his right buttock."
Bennallack told investigators he fired his weapon because he saw Diaz "pull something from his waistband and turn." But the OC Weekly adds:
"... There was no gun as Diaz was unarmed. A cell phone and a glass pipe were said to have been recovered near his body. Much was made to the photographic contents of the phone. Wagner released pictures of the young man posing with guns and throwing up gang signs, but none of that pertains to the critical moment in question."
KPCC's Ben Bergman tweets that Diaz's mother led a protest this morning outside a courthouse in Anaheim.
She held a sign that read, "Nick 'Buckshot' Bennallack must be arrested, tried, sent to prison for murder."