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Saturday, May 9, 2009

CA- Petaluma suspect shot 27 times

10-9-2005 California:

5 officers fired total of 42 rounds in 2 volleys at child molest suspect who pointed loaded gun at police
2005 California

A suspected child molester killed by Petaluma police last weekend was shot 27 times after he pointed a loaded handgun at officers, authorities said Friday.

Five officers fired 42 rounds, striking 72-year-old James Anthony Decosta over much of his body, including his head, neck and chest.

Petaluma Police Chief Steve Hood said the officers risked their own lives while standing down an armed fugitive.

He said the 42 shots were necessary to stop Decosta, who had led officers on a brief car chase last Saturday before pulling over in an industrial park.

Hood said officers began firing on Decosta when the ex-Marine got out of a car and pointed a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun at them.

When Decosta lowered the gun, Hood said, the officers stopped firing and shouted for him not to raise it again. Decosta ignored the order, raising the weapon a second time, prompting more gunfire from the officers, Hood said.

Hood said he doesn't know if Decosta was struck by the initial volley. Decosta's gun, which contained three rounds, apparently jammed, but police said it's not known if he tried to fire or if it was misloaded or damaged when he fell.

"Clearly, it took that many shots to end the threat," Hood said. "The restraint officers showed after the first series of shots put them at risk. Had it not been for the malfunction, we could have easily had an officer shot, which I believe was his (Decosta's) intent."

The shooting is being investigated by Santa Rosa police and the Sonoma County district attorney per a protocol governing officer-involved shootings.

"From all the information I've received from investigating agencies . .. it appears that our officers acted in an appropriate manner and consistent with their training," Hood said.

Petaluma police went into greater detail about the shooting Friday in response to information released by the Sonoma County coroner revealing that Decosta was shot 27 times.

An autopsy Monday showed Decosta was shot in the head, neck, chest, abdomen, groin, left arm, left leg and right foot. Five of the shots could have proved fatal on their own, authorities said.

Six shots grazed Decosta, Sheriff's Lt. Dave Edmonds said.

Most of the entry wounds were on the left side of Decosta's body, suggesting he was hit as he was turning on officers who had pulled up behind his car. Hood called that "speculation."

He said officers were attempting a high-risk traffic stop, which involves an overwhelming show of force so that the suspect gives up.

The five officers, riding in four cars, fanned out behind Decosta's car in such a way as to prevent them from accidentally firing at one another and minimizing risk to civilians, Hood said.

"The ultimate success depends on compliance from the suspect, which in this case, the suspect immediately exited his car and was confrontational," he said.

Petaluma police, along with a Sacramento police detective and a special agent with the state Department of Justice, had been searching for Decosta since the day before the shooting.

Sacramento authorities had recently learned that Decosta might be cashing Social Security checks in Petaluma. He had been sought since 1998 on a $100,000 arrest warrant accusing him of child molestation.

Sacramento Police Sgt. Justin Risley said Friday that the case involved allegations Decosta had raped and sodomized his 10- and 11-year-old stepdaughters.

"He packed everything and left before she (Decosta's wife) realized it," Risley said. "We investigated it and were never able to locate him."

After spotting Decosta at a gym on Old Corona Road, two Petaluma detectives radioed for two uniformed officers to stop Decosta's car. They were joined in the pursuit by another officer when Decosta didn't stop.

During the two-minute, seven-second chase, officers noted Decosta seemed to be reaching for something in his car, Hood said. They also learned from a dispatcher moments before Decosta pulled over that he had a weapon registered in his name.

Bob McMenomey, the use-of-force commander for the Sheriff's Department, said deputies are trained to use deadly force to protect themselves or others from an immediate threat of death or serious injury.

In situations where deputies resort to firing their gun, McMenomey said, "you shoot until you perceive the threat has been stopped, until it is no longer a threat."

All the officers involved in Saturday's shooting were carrying semiautomatic .40-caliber Glock handguns, which usually have 10 to 15 rounds.

Most U.S. law enforcement agencies switched to semiautomatics from revolvers after shootouts in the 1970s and 1980s in which officers were outgunned.
Lt. Danny Fish, who oversees special operations for Petaluma police, said officers don't carry semiautomatics because they are easier to fire but because they are more technologically advanced.

"We try to provide our people with the best item out there," he said. "Right now, that's semiautomatic weapons." ..more.. by DEREK J. MOORE, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT


5 police officers on paid leave after shooting molestation suspect

10-5-2005 California:

The Petaluma Police Department will be operating indefinitely without the services of five officers due to the fatal shooting of a suspected child molester on Saturday. The officers -- Rick Cox, 33; Garrett Glaviano, 26; John Lipanovich, 30; Dan Miller, 33; and Mike Pierre, 35 -- were placed on indefinite, paid administrative leave, as is typical when officers are involved in shootings that are being investigated. "This is standard practice, but the length of leave is left up to individual departments," said Sgt. Dave Negri of the Santa Rosa Police Department. Petaluma Police Capt. Dave Sears says that the officers' absence will not affect services.

"We have enough staff (68 officers) to take care of our needs," he said. James Anthony Decosta, 72, wanted since 1998 on a $100,000 felony warrant for forced child molestation, was shot and killed by Petaluma police officers at around 5 p.m. after allegedly exiting his Ford coupe with a handgun, said police department sources. An agent from the California Department of Justice in Sacramento and a Sacramento Police Department detective tracked Decosta to Petaluma, and asked Petaluma police for help. DeCosta has a brother who lives in Petaluma. Petaluma police detectives found him leaving the Peta-luma Valley Athletic Club at 85 Corona Road after working out, and requested help from uniformed police officers.

They attempted to stop his vehicle, and he initially cooperated, but then led them on a brief chase, stopping in the area of North McDowell and Dynamic streets. The officers eventually were able to make a "high-risk" traffic stop, which typically includes officers drawing their guns before a suspect exits a vehicle. Decosta, a former resident of Sacra-mento, stepped out of the Ford coupe with a semiautomatic pistol and pointed it at officers, police said. Nine officers were at the scene, and Cox, Glaviano, Lipanovich, Miller and Pierre fired shots at him.

Paramedics and police officers administered CPR on Decosta, who later was transported by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy was being performed on Tuesday. The California Department of Justice agent and the Sacramento police detective who had been attempting to find Decosta -- who was charged with committing forced, lewd and lascivious acts on a juvenile under the age of 14 -- arrived at the scene after the shooting. ..Source.. by DAN JOHNSON, ARGUS-COURIER STAFF

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