California DOJ Suggests Implementation of Policies for Officer-Involved Shootings, Post Killing of Samuel Soto by LAPD

By Bryan Miller & Karime Montano

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Rob Bonta, commented publicly late Friday about a report analyzing the officer-involved shooting of Samuel Soto by Los Angeles Police Dept. July 26, 2021, which became controversial when it was learned law enforcement’s early version of the events was not completely accurate.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, officers shot Soto “after responding to an off-duty officer’s call that Soto was bleeding from the neck and carrying a blade on a Pico-Union street.”

But, the Times writes, the narrative of the shooting offered by LAPD “simplified a complicated situation. While Moore said a preliminary investigation showed that Soto was armed with a knife when shot and taken into custody, body-camera footage later released by the department showed that he dropped the knife after he was first shot by police and that other officers shot him again minutes later, while he was unarmed.”

The report, mandated by the Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506), was designed to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement practices.

Bonta said, “The loss of life is always a tragedy. We understand that this incident was difficult for everyone involved,” adding his office hopes the report will “offer some clarity and facilitate our collective progress towards a California that is safer and more equitable.” 

Bonta promised the California Department of Justice will continue “to be dedicated to collaborating with all participants in order to guarantee that our legal system is impartial, open, and responsible to every individual residing in California.”

Attorney General Bonta said, “LAPD officers responded to an assault with a deadly weapon” on the night of July 26, 2021 and “Mr. Soto was shot by officers at around 8:50 p.m.,” adding Soto  “died from his injuries on Nov. 2, 2021.” 

The AG said,  after Soto’s death, as mandated by Assembly Bill 1506, the CA Dept of Justice “conducted a thorough investigation into this incident and concluded that the evidence does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officers involved acted without the intent to defend themselves and others from what they reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury.”

Following the investigation, Bonta said, it was decided that “no further action will be taken in this case” because there was “insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the officers.” 

However, Attorney General Bonta noted the DOJ “identified several policy recommendations that it believes will help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future,” including, the “LAPD should evaluate if the officers adhered to the TASER regulations and procedures that have been implemented to make sure they have been trained sufficiently. The LAPD must also guarantee compliance to the policies in order to resolve any systematic problems.”

Bonta said another policy recommendation is: “Consideration of a collaboration between the LAPD and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) to improve the dispatching system and their communication. This could include modifying and training with policies of calls that could involve both departments.”

Bonta added, “These Law Enforcement agencies can improve public safety, build confidence, and uphold the ideals of justice and fair treatment for all individuals by addressing the concerns of  TASER usage, public interactions and response protocols. While the investigation did not find enough to conclude a criminal prosecution against the officers, it does allow future policy suggestions for prevention.”

About The Author

Bryan Miller is a fourth year political science - public service major at UC Davis. He has a desire to pursue law in the future and has a large interest in the justice system and constitutional law. In his free time Bryan likes to spend time outdoors fishing and hiking.

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