Ceres Police Department officers Justin Canatsy and Jesus Salinas were justified in the fatal shooting of a Ceres parolee early last year, Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager announced yesterday.
The two officers fatally shot Albert Thompson, 28, on Jan. 5, 2016 as he tried running away from them at a small apartment complex at El Camino Avenue and Don Pedro Road.
Fladager said that "after a thorough review of all the relevant evidence gathered during the investigation of an officer-involved shooting death that occurred on January 5, 2016, the shooting has been determined to be justified."
Canatsy and Salinas had information that Thompson, a wanted, armed parolee-at-large, could be found at the apartment complex which has since been purchased by the city for right-of-way acquisition and closed. At approximately 9:48 p.m. the officers found him and he fled while pulling a small, metallic object from his waistband and pointed it towards one of the officers as if it were a firearm. The officers fired at Thompson as they moved for cover. The object was later determined to be a butane torch.
In a letter to Ceres Police, the district attorney noted that Canatsy first spotted Thompson in the darkness of the parking lot, which was surrounded by units. Canatsy walked toward Thompson with Salinas following. Thompson started to walk around a vehicle and distanced himself from the approaching officers. When Salinas identified himself as Ceres Police, Thompson fled with the officers running and telling dispatch "one running." Thompson then ran around another vehicle with the two officers on either side of the vehicle to form a triangle between the three bodies. Thompson then started to reach for something in his waistband. Police said he moved toward the rear of a pickup as he attempted to produce something from his waistband while staring at the officers and saying nothing. Both officers yelled for Thompson to show his hands but he refused. That prompted the officers to pull their guns on Thompson while continuing to issue commands. Thompson then pulled the small torch and pointed it at Salinas. Canatsy testified that the object was being held like "someone shooting a firearm or holding a firearm."
Both officers fired at Thompson as they moved for cover, thinking they were being fired upon. Thompson started to run away while continuing to point the item at officers until he collapsed, the DA's report said.
Salinas, the letter said, thought he was about to be killed.
Thompson was in possession of a methamphetamine and a meth pipe. A toxicology report indicated that he had meth in his system.
Although Thompson was not armed with a gun, the simulation of one and the belief that a weapon is real has been tested in court cases as a legitimate reason to shoot in self-defense, Fladager said. She said "any failure to comply on Thompson's part was a volitional act."