Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Todd Spitzer released the investigation findings and legal conclusions of the Garden Grove Police Department officer-involved shooting of James Salazar.
The full letter, “OCDA Report Officer-Involved Shooting – James Salazar” is available at www.orangecountyda.org by selecting Officer-Involved Shootings and Custodial Death Letters under the Reports pull-down menu. The relevant video/audio evidence is available on the OCDA webpage:
Below are excerpts from the OCDA report on this incident.
Based on the totality of all the evidence and facts, it is our conclusion that we do not have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Mazon was not justified in believing that Salazar posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to himself and others. This conclusion is based on the totality of the circumstances, but primarily based on Salazar’s conduct in the moments leading up to the shooting.
Firstly, the analysis begins with the reason for which Officer Mazon contacted Salazar. Officer Mazon personally observed Salazar driving in a reckless manner that resulted in a significant traffic collision. Officer Mazon’s intention when he first exited his idling police vehicle, leaving the driver’s side door ajar, was to check on the well-being of Salazar and render any necessary first-aid. Officer Mazon was not aware the Challenger was stolen.
Secondly, Officer Mazon employed several non-lethal tactics in an effort to de-escalate Salazar’s increasingly serious non-compliance.
Thirdly, the OCDA notes a significant escalation of danger presented by Salazar’s activity in the patrol vehicle. The vehicle was running, and therefore capable of being driven. Salazar was seated in the driver’s seat, and therefore capable of driving.
Fourthly, when Salazar drove the patrol vehicle toward the Challenger, Officer Mazon was situated in a highly vulnerable position: on foot, partially within the patrol vehicle doorframe.
Believing Salazar had just tried to kill him and that Salazar would do so to anyone preventing Salazar’s escape, Officer Mazon fired two (2) shots at Salazar.
Based upon a review of all the evidence provided to and obtained by the OCDA, and based on the entirety of the facts contained in all the available reports and interviews reviewed, and pursuant to the applicable legal principles, it is our legal opinion that the evidence does not support a beyond a reasonable doubt finding that Officer Mazon’s actions were not reasonable, not necessary, and not legally justified when he shot Salazar on February 26, 2020.
The following video was released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and includes the relevant camera footage from the incident. Viewer Discretion is advised.