Officers cleared in shooting of knife-wielding man

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Two veteran policemen were legally justified in fatally shooting a domestic-assault suspect who allegedly lunged toward them with a 13-inch kitchen knife in his hand at his Clairemont home last winter, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis concluded in a ruling released Wednesday.

San Diego police Officers Steve Schnick and Richard Widner opened fire on 26-year-old Marc Anthony Carrasco in a back bedroom of the Dawne Street house early on the morning of March 5.

Carrasco died on a bed, still clutching the stainless-steel, wood- handled knife he had threatened Schnick and Widner with, Dumanis wrote in a letter to SDPD Chief William Lansdowne.

“Both officers fired at Mr. Carrasco after he refused their commands to drop the knife and lunged at Officer Widner,” the district attorney stated. “Based on these circumstances, it's apparent that Officers Widner and Schnick fired … in self-defense, as well as in defense of one another.”

The events that led to the shooting began about 7 the previous evening, when Carrasco's aunt made an emergency call to report that her nephew was drunk and angry and had grabbed her by the throat while throwing her onto a coffee table in their home, according to Dumanis.

By the time police arrived, Carrasco had fled, and officers were unable to locate him.

About 1:45 the next morning, the woman called 911 again, this time to report that Carrasco was threatening to “get a knife and stab her,” Dumanis stated in her legal analysis.

When Schnick, Widner and two other officers arrived at the residence, the woman told them her nephew was in a rear bedroom and had threatened the life of anyone who entered.

She “also told the officers she was concerned for her nephew's 3-year- old daughter, (who) she believed was also in the bedroom with Mr. Carrasco,” Dumanis wrote.

Schnick and Widner went to the back bedroom, identified themselves through the closed door as police officers and ordered Carrasco to come out. Getting no response, they entered and saw the suspect lying on a bed, covered with a blanket.

Moments later, Carrasco threw off the covering and rose to his knees, holding the knife, according to police. Refusing the officers' repeated shouts to drop the weapon, Carrasco lurched forward, prompting them to fire a total of nine .45-caliber and 9 mm bullets at him. Schnick shot twice, and Widner discharged seven rounds, according to Dumanis.

An autopsy determined that Carrasco died of wounds to his head, chest, shoulder, abdomen, left arm and right leg.

At the time of his death, he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent, 2 1/2 times the legal limit for driving, officials said.

California law empowers peace officers to use lethal force to protect themselves and others from threats of death and great bodily injury, Dumanis said.

Due to Carrasco's threatening actions, Schnick, a 16-year SDPD officer, and Widner, a 32-year department member, “bear no criminal liability” for the shooting, Dumanis ruled.

Nearly 12 years ago, Widner was one of three San Diego policemen and three California Highway Patrol personnel involved in the fatal shooting of an ex-con at the end of a three-hour chase through four counties.

The officers unleashed a barrage of gunfire on Michael Alan Thayer, 49, of Riverside on the morning of Nov. 26, 1999, when he got out of his 1979 Nissan 280Z alongside the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near State Route 94, carrying what appeared to be a pistol.

Following the shooting, which left Thayer dead of 17 bullet wounds, police determined that he had been holding a replica handgun.

During the lengthy pursuit, Thayer had written apologetic notes to his family in a day planner. The messages indicated that he intended to force police to kill him so he would not have to go back to prison.

Categories: KUSI