San Francisco Bay Area Violent Crime

Napa Police Officers Cleared of Liability in Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting

Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley today said Napa police officers were not criminally liable in the shooting of a man in the city’s South Napa Market area earlier this year.

Haley said Noel Aaron Russell, 23, had used a large amount of methamphetamine and drank alcohol before he attacked patrons of the marketplace in a parking lot north of Kansas Avenue and west of Soscol Avenue around 6:20 p.m. on March 13.

Russell threatened people with a knife and vandalized vehicles, prompting a response by Napa police, Haley said. Sgt. Ryan Cole and Officer Jack Thomson responded within minutes and tried to defuse the situation. Russell refused to follow instructions, pulled out a knife, took a stance and moved toward Cole who was a short distance away, Haley said.

Cole and Thomson believed Russell intended to use deadly force and feared for their lives and the lives of people nearby, so both officers fired their weapons, Haley said. A locked folding knife was recovered next to Russell’s body and he died at the scene, Napa police Capt. Jennifer Gonzales said after the incident.

According to Haley, the use of deadly force by Sgt. Cole and Officer Thomson was a reasonable and lawful response under the totality of the circumstances. Therefore, the actions were legally justified and criminal charges against them are neither warranted not supported by the evidence.

Cole was a 22-year law enforcement veteran and Thomson was a 25-year veteran at the time of the shooting.

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