One day after saying they would not file charges against an Anaheim police officer who shot and killed a man outside his home, Orange County prosecutors Tuesday said the officer's actions were justified because he believed Julian Alexander was threatening him with a stick.
The officer, identified by prosecutors as Kevin Flanagan, a 10-year veteran of the Anaheim Police Department, was chasing burglary suspects when he shot Alexander. Police have acknowledged that Alexander, 20, was not involved in the chase.
At a news conference Tuesday, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and two assistant prosecutors detailed the department's investigation into the shooting. Alexander, they contend, raised his stick in front of Flanagan but may not have known that he was a police officer.
According to prosecutors, Flanagan was chasing four juveniles after midnight on Oct. 27. Hearing the commotion, prosecutors said, Alexander left his house armed with a stick that was 3 to 4 feet long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
At some point, one of the juveniles told prosecutors, Flanagan ordered Alexander to put the stick down. The juveniles fled -- they were apprehended later that day -- and the officer and Alexander were left alone in the yard.
Prosecutors said Flanagan was the only witness to the shooting.
Flanagan told prosecutors that Alexander raised the stick to shoulder level and moved toward him, prompting him to fire two shots.
The shooting was justified, prosecutors said, because the officer reasonably believed that Alexander posed a threat of serious harm.
Brian Dunn, an attorney for Julian Alexander's widow, Renee Alexander, and daughter, who was born about a month after the shooting, said the family was disappointed by the decision not to file criminal charges against Flanagan.
"Why would a man with no criminal history, with no predisposition for criminal wrongdoing, armed with a broomstick, attempt to initiate a violent confrontation with an armed law enforcement officer? That is not logical," Dunn said. "What is logical is that a poorly trained officer completely misperceived the situation and overreacted."
A spokesman for the Police Department said Flanagan, a patrol officer assigned to elementary and middle schools, had not been involved in any previous shootings as an officer. He has returned to patrol duty.
In a statement, Chief John Welter said the department's command staff will review whether the officer's tactics were in line with training standards, as it does in all major use-of-force cases. He called the shooting a "tragic incident."