Authorities on Tuesday continued to investigate a man’s death while in custody of Fullerton police, who deployed a “sponge gun” and Tasers after he allegedly broke into a home, caused a street disturbance and attacked three officers.
Fullerton police said the father of the 22-year-old man, whose name has not been released, called the agency’s dispatch around 4 p.m. Monday. The parent told authorities that his son was being disruptive, and that the 22-year-old might fight police when they arrive.
Responding officers spoke with the man and his family, who then told police that the son could stay with them and that they could control him.
“They did not want anything done further with the male,” an agency statement said.
About an hour and half later, Fullerton police responded to a call about a man acting erratically and screaming at pedestrians in the 200 block of S. Kellogg Avenue.
Witness Josefina Beltran said she heard the man yelling and saw him walking with his hands balled in a fist.
“He was screaming things and walked away down the block and I did not hear him again,” she said in Spanish.
According to the Police Department, the officers recognized the man from the earlier incident and similar recent calls. One of the officers also knew him from a Feb. 2 incident in which the 22-year-old allegedly jumped in front a Fullerton Fire Department engine and tried to fight firefighters in the area of Valencia Drive and Magnolia Avenue.
Police responded to the Fire Department’s request for help. The officers said they struggled to detain the man, who was found to be in possession of meth. He was eventually detained for a mental health evaluation and hospitalized.
When the Police Department again encountered the 22-year-old on Monday, the man “immediately began to rush the officers,” the agency said.
Police fired 40-millimeter “sponge gun” rounds at him, striking him in the torso.
“The less lethal rounds had no effect on the male and he continued to rush at them,” the Police Department said in a statement. “Three separate Fullerton Police Officers deployed their tasers, however they had no effect on the male and he continued to rush them. After the sponge gun rounds and three tasers were deployed with no effect, a physical fight ensued.”
According to police, three officers sustained various injuries–one officer was hurt in the face, another in the neck and the other in the abdomen. They received treatment at the hospital and have been released.
Police ultimately managed to place the 22-year-old in handcuffs before paramedics arrived to transport him to the hospital, which is standard with Taser deployment, the agency said.
The man allegedly fought the paramedics, who reported giving him a sedative after receiving permission from the hospital.
Police said after the 22-year-old calmed down, he stopped breathing at some point on the way to the medical center.
He was pronounced dead in the emergency room.
Following the man’s encounter with police on Monday, investigators said they determined that the man had broken into a neighbor’s home 20 minutes before the officers arrived.
Surveillance video shows a man violently punching a door as a woman screams.
The victim fled the residence. Her husband said he called police on the man for his behavior the previous month.
“He was basically looking for trouble, trying to fight someone,” he said. “It’s pretty scary for my kids.”
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the case.
Photo Credit: Orange County Register