The San Diego Union-Tribune
Three sheriff’s officials were legally justified in fatally shooting an Alpine man who burst out his front door and lunged at them with a butcher knife last fall, District Attorney Summer Stephan has determined.
The trio “acted reasonably under the circumstances” and will face no criminal charges, Stephan wrote in a May 21 letter to Sheriff Bill Gore that was released Wednesday.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Katra, Cpl. Sean McGillicuddy and Deputy Kevin Nulton fired a total of 14 rounds that killed Daniel Ayala, 31, at a second-floor apartment on Alpine Boulevard on Nov. 12.
In the letter, Stephan outlines that shortly before 3 p.m., several people called 911 to report that a man who sounded drunk was screaming, throwing things and threatening to kill people, with a 5-year-old boy — Ayala’s son — in the apartment with him.
Body-worn camera footage from Nulton and Katra, released by the district attorney along with the letter, shows the deputies consulting at the foot of a wooden stairway. They walk up to a narrow landing on the second floor and Nulton knocks a few times on an apartment’s metal security screen door. Katra stands to the right of the door and McGillicuddy to the left.
Nulton announces, “Sheriff’s Department,” several times, then adds, “nobody’s in trouble, we just want to talk with you real quick.”
Seconds later, Nulton’s camera footage shows the blade of a large knife plunge all the way through the metal mesh screen, near where Nulton was standing. He warns, “knife, knife, knife,” as he backs away and Katra moves across to the other side of the door. The footage shows Nulton’s pistol in both hands and, when the sergeant is out of his way, he opens fire as Ayala lunges out of the doorway.
Katra’s camera video shows Ayala coming out, crouching forward with a large knife thrust forward in his right hand. He falls as bullets hit him. Nulton fired six rounds; Katra and McGillicuddy each fired four.
The child inside the apartment was not injured.
Katra told investigators he fired his gun because he had no time to get out of the way and he was afraid Ayala would stab him. He estimated that he was four or five feet from Ayala when he fired.
Stephan’s letter noted that six rounds hit Ayala’s torso and four hit his legs. Two others hit the floor and railing. Another was found in the parking lot and a fourth pierced the walkway floor and the window of an apartment directly below.
Toxicology results showed Ayala had evidence of methamphetamine, heroin, cannabis and alcohol in his system, Stephan said.
“With the extremely limited time to assess the threat Ayala presented, and with minimal physical space available to escape harm’s way, the deputies were compelled by Ayala to use deadly force in order to safeguard their own lives,” Stephan wrote.
At the time, Katra had been with the Sheriff’s Department for 18 years, McGillicuddy for 12 years and Nulton for 10 years.
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