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DA clears officer in Santa Cruz deadly shooting

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - UPDATE 2/16/17 8:30 p.m.: The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office announced no criminal charges will be filed against the Santa Cruz police officer who shot and killed a mentally ill man last year. Sean Arlt, 32, was killed in a deadly confrontation with police on October 16. His death came days after another run-in with officers.

"Based on an independent review of the facts and circumstances of this case, as well as legal analysis of whether the officer acted within the scope of the law, it is the determination of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office that the officer was legally in a position to exercise the use of force that he did and that it is not appropriate to file criminal charges against the officer in this case," Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell announced.

In the early hours of October 16, police were called to a home on Chace Street in Santa Cruz on reports of a man trying to get into a home. The caller knew Arlt, referring to him as “the crazy kid from next door,” but still wanted authorities to come right away. In another conversation with dispatchers, he said he would call Arlt’s parents.

When Sgt. Bill Clayton, Officers Adam Baker, Denise Cockrum and Erik Bailey arrived on scene, they saw him holding an umbrella, banging it on a wall and making noise. The officers, aware of Arlt's recent run-in with police, formed a plan to have two officers armed with less lethal weapons (tasers) and two officers armed with guns. Arlt disappeared from their view but came back holding a five-foot bow rake. Police said he given multiple verbal commands then was tased three times by two different officers, but they said it had no effect.

Rosell said Arlt seemed fixated on one officer in particular, Officer Erik Bailey, who had been with the department for two years.

"The other officer who he is focused on, backed up about four feet and backed up into a vehicle and could not retreat any farther," Rosell said. "At that point, he fires two rounds from his duty weapon into Mr. Arlt. The attack is over. Immediately they call for medical response."

Arlt was shot in the head and the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene 18 minutes after he was shot.

According to Vogel, officers had contact with Arlt before the deadly shooting. On October 10, a family member contacted authorities because they believed he was in crisis. Officers determine he didn't meet mental health criteria. His family reportedly said they would get him help themselves.

The next day, he was reported missing from Dominican Hospital. His family wanted to file a police report, but when he returned home, they called to have it canceled. Later that night, officers responded to a home on Chace Street. They say Arlt was holding two pens. He put one down, but said the pens were "his key to Heaven." He walked away making a stabbing motion with the pen. Officers couldn't tase him because it wasn't safe for he or the officers, so they attempted a carotid neck hold which didn't work. Two officers held him down and called for backup. In total, ten officers were needed to restrain Arlt before he was taken to in for a 72-hour hold. At that time he was also arrested for resisting arrest. Vogel said police officers left instructions for staff to notify them when he would be released so he could answer for the arrest, but he was released after eight hours and police were never notified.

All of the officers involved in the deadly shooting had been briefed on the incident for officer safety reasons. All of them have also returned to duty. While the district attorney's investigation is over, the police department's administrative investigation is not.

"Our internal investigation will focus primarily on the tactics and the procedures that we used and we'll evaluate policy and training as it related to this particular incident," Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said.
The department is also pursuing the implementation of body worn cameras and how it deals with people having a mental health crisis. All four officers had undergone mental health training within the year before the shooting and two of the officers were trained hostage negotiators.

"From this tragedy we will continue to examine our level of service delivery to those encountering crisis in our community with the objective of avoiding such future loss," Deputy Chief Rick Martinez said.

KION also reached out to the attorney representing the Arlt family.

"We weren't surprised at all because district attorneys in California almost never charge police officers with crimes regardless of how egregious it was," Michael Haddad said.

According to Haddad, the family plans to file a suit against Officer Bailey and the Santa Cruz Police Department, beliving they have a strong case since officers knew Arlt had a mental illness.

UPDATE 2/16/17 1:30 p.m.: During a press conference Thursday afternoon, the Santa Cruz Police Department responded to the district attorney's findings on an investigation into the death of Sean Arlt last October.

The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office said it was asked by the police department to conduct an independent investigation to determine whether any criminal charges should be filed.

DA Jeff Rosell said the investigation revealed the officer, who shot Arlt twice, was within his legal rights at the time of the incident. 

Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said all officers who responded to the incident in October have returned to duty.

PREVIOUS STORY: On Thursday, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell released the results of a deadly officer-involved shooting that killed Sean Arlt, 32, last October.

Rosell said the Santa Cruz police officer was legal in using the level of force that he did. The officer has been identified as Eric Bailey.

During a press conference, Rosell showed video of the police encounter with Arlt, a mentally ill man, as he was shot twice by police. The incident came after reports Arlt threatened to break-in and kill people inside a home, later brandishing a metal bow rake at officers. "What happened early in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2016, was a tragedy for Mr. Arlt's family and our community," Rosell said. "At the request of the Santa Cruz Police Department, we conducted an independent investigation. We evaluated the circumstances of the officer-involved shootings as it related to criminal liability for the officer. Following an extensive, independent investigation, we found no legal wrongdoing on the part of (the) Santa Cruz Police Department officer, Erik Bailey."

Rosell said the investigation took four months.

During a phone interview, the attorney representing the Arlt family said he wasn't surprised by the DA's findings and the family plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Santa Cruz Police Department and Officer Bailey soon.

KION will have more on this developing story. The Santa Cruz Police Department also plans to hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m.

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