Santa Maria Police officers shot and killed a knife-wielding man after he threatened his family and charged police on Sunday night.
On Monday, Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen said his officers acted appropriately in defending themselves and others by using less-than-lethal projectiles before shooting the man.
As with all police-involved shootings, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is now charged with investigating the incident, which unfolded about 6:15 p.m. on Sunday with a disturbance call originating from a home in the 400 block of East Mill Street.
The man made threats to himself and others while on the phone with Santa Maria Police dispatchers, according to Sheriff's Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover.
The man was identified by the Sheriff's Office as 27-year-old Alejandro Valdez of Santa Maria.
Santa Maria officers remained outside the home and tried to make contact with Valdez in an effort to deescalate the situation, according to law enforcement officials.
Valdez then came out of the home holding two knives and charged police, Hansen said.
“We didn’t make entry. The man was threatening family members. We tried to have dialog with him and he basically came out on his own and attacked our people. It was unfortunate,” Hansen said.
One officer tried to stop Valdez from advancing towards them with the knives, by hitting him with a 40 mm less-than-lethal projectile, sometimes described as a rubber bullet, according to Hoover.
The man did not stop. The officers on the scene then used their firearms to shoot the man, she said.
“A total of four Santa Maria Police officers fired lethal rounds during the encounter, and the suspect was fatally injured,” said Hoover.
The last fatal officer-involved shooting in Santa Maria occurred in July 2016.
“We’ve had tremendous success in averting shootings by using less than lethal means. Unfortunately, they are not full proof. We will continue to do everything that we can to insure the safety of the people of this community while using the very minimum amount of force that we can apply while maintaining our safety,” Hansen said.
“In that time, we’ve had probably close to 9,000 arrests and a 150 or so times we’ve had to use force. We do everything we can to minimize the force used."
Hansen said the officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation and until they see a psychologist and are cleared for duty, per routine procedure.
“The last thing an officer wants to do is use deadly force. It is traumatic for them,” he said. “Believe me, no officer goes to work wanting to use force, much less kill somebody. That is just not how it works.”
Once the Sheriff’s Office completes their work, a report will be submitted to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office to determine the lawfulness of the force used on Sunday.