General Crime

*Sonoma DA Says Santa Rosa Police Officers Not Criminally Liable for Killing Armed Mentally Ill Man

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Santa Rosa police officers are not criminally liable for fatally shooting a mentally ill man who advanced on them with a knife at a residential care facility in January 2008, Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said today.  Passalacqua said the Jan. 2, 2008, shooting of Jesse Nathaniel Hamilton “was a tragic incident involving a person with mental health problems who had armed himself with a knife and charged an innocent citizen and police officers.”  Santa Rosa police Officer Michael Heiser shot Hamilton four times in self-defense and the defense of others, Passalacqua said.  “All the officers acted lawfully and no criminal charges are warranted” Passalacqua said. Heiser and Officers Gregg Ayer and Greg Yaeger went to the residence at 531 A St. in Santa Rosa on Jan. 2 after a staff member of Telecare, a mental health care provider, called 911, Passalacqua said.  Hamilton, 24, was reported to be wielding a knife and was sequestered and heard screaming “slash” and “die” in his room at the time officers arrived, Passalacqua said. Social worker Alexander Kennett said he tried to talk Hamilton into coming out of his room peacefully and knocked on the door of Hamilton’s room, according to Passalacqua. Hamilton bolted out of the door armed with a knife and Kennett quickly moved down a long narrow hallway past the officers, according to Passalacqua.  Yaeger shot Hamilton with a Taser to no effect and Hamilton kept advancing toward the officers who were backing away, Passalacqua said. Hamilton had the knife raised above his head and was screaming at the officers and Heiser fired his gun four times because he feared for his life and those of the other officers, Passalacqua said. Yaeger and Ayer restrained Hamilton who kept screaming and struggling.  Hamilton was handcuffed and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he died several hours after the 12:45 p.m. incident.  An autopsy determined Hamilton died of gunshot wounds, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department said. Three bullets struck his torso, one bullet hit his leg and he also was hit twice by the Taser, the sheriff’s department said.  Passalacqua said the officers were aware when they arrived that Hamilton had “mental health issues and was armed with a knife.”  The officers hoped Kennett could resolve the situation peacefully because he had a rapport with Hamilton, Passalacqua said, but the situation “escalated rapidly” when Hamilton came out of the room with a knife and Kennett “ran away in fear for his life.”  “Due to the close proximity of Hamilton to the officers and the failure of the Taser to stop Hamilton, Officer Heiser reasonably believed that the officers’ lives were in danger and had to act immediately,” Passalacqua said.
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