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Ventura County Deputy Not Charged in Slaying

November 14, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

The fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by a Ventura County sheriff's deputy earlier this year cannot be "conclusively justified," but evidence in the case indicates that the officer was acting in defense of others and therefore will not be charged with a crime, according to a prosecutor's report issued Thursday.

Dist. Atty. Greg Totten concluded that Deputy Vincent Camou killed James Hanlon Daniels, 19, because the officer believed he was protecting children and parents at a Thousand Oaks swim school as the suspect moved toward the entrance armed with a box-cutter type knife. Daniels was shot eight times with the officer's 9-millimeter handgun.

"A 'reasonable interpretation' of the available evidence supports the conclusion that Camou honestly and reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent danger to himself or others and therefore acted in lawful defense," according to the district attorney's 58-page analysis.

Camou, who remains on active duty, is now a sergeant assigned to the Main Jail in Ventura. He could not be reached for comment.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Maev Fox, who wrote the report and reviewed hundreds of pages on Daniels' long history of mental illness and his numerous run-ins with police, called the shooting a sad case, but one in which it was evident that prosecutors would "never get a criminal conviction."

Attorney Brian Magana, who represents Daniels' mother, Stephanie Noelle McDonough, in a wrongful-death claim filed last month against the Sheriff's Department, said he had not seen the report. But he suggested that the wording of the conclusion raised numerous questions.

"It sounds like they're equivocating somewhat, going as far as they can to put a good face on it," Magana said of the analysis.

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