The Lancaster, Penn. police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding mentally ill man — triggering angry protests — won’t be criminally charged, the city’s top prosecutor said Wednesday in finding that his use of lethal force was justified.
The officer opened fire on Ricardo Munoz, 27, while responding to a domestic disturbance call on Sept. 13. The shooting was caught on the cop’s body camera.
Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said the deadly encounter lasted all of four seconds, leaving no time for de-escalation tactics.
“Munoz responded to the officer’s mere presence on the scene by charging at the officer with a knife,” Adams said at a press conference, adding that the two never exchanged words. “Munoz immediately and without warning charged and chased the officer and the officer ran for his life.”
Adams said she met with Munoz’s family ahead of the press conference to deliver the news.
“We are disappointed with the investigation and the conclusions the district attorney reached regarding Ricardo Muñoz’s death,” said attorney Steven M. Levin, according to Lancaster Online.
Body camera footage put out by Lancaster police shows the officer, who has not been publicly identified, approaching the front door of a home on Laurel Street, and Munoz suddenly bursting out, charging at the cop with a hunting-style knife in hand.
The seconds-long encounter ends with the video showing the officer fleeing, then quickly turning around and firing four shots, striking Munoz, who was declared dead at the scene.
“The officer essentially runs for his life,” Adams said.
The DA also responded to criticism that the cop didn’t just shoot Munoz in the leg, instead of using deadly force.
“Officers are trained to shoot at center mass,” she said. “They are trained to meet deadly force with deadly force until the threat is neutralized. He did as he was trained to do.”
Levin urged for the release of the full video.
Family has said Munoz struggled with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was off his medication at the time of the shooting.
His one sister’s mother had called 911, reporting that he was trying to break into their mother’s home. His other sister, who was not at the scene, called a local crisis intervention group and then a non-emergency police number.
Adams said when the officer arrived at the scene, his mother told him that the cop was there. The mom later told investigators that Munoz then fled upstairs to retrieve the knife and ran back down before charging at the officer.
The family’s other attorney, Michael Pena, said the DA’s probe raises more questions than it answers.
“Ricardo was experiencing a medical crisis, and his family sought professional intervention, so why didn’t crisis intervention do its job? Why wasn’t non-lethal force tried first?” he asked.