Lompoc Police officers who shot and killed a man who had engaged in a shootout with police after allegedly murdering a man in the Santa Ynez Riverbed near Lompoc late last year were deemed to have acted reasonably in their use of deadly force, according to a report released Monday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
The report, released by District Attorney Joyce Dudley, detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of 34-year-old Geronimo Vicente Santos, who was shot and killed by five Lompoc Police officers on Nov. 19, 2017. The DA’s Office reviewed the investigation of the incident, which was conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and ultimately concluded that Santos’ death at the hands of the officers was a “justifiable homicide.”
The incident began in the early morning hours of Nov. 19 in the Santa Ynez Riverbed, which runs along Lompoc’s eastern and northern borders and has long been home to many homeless people in the area.
Santos was in the riverbed that morning, according to the report from the DA’s Office, and was at an encampment that included several people, including his ex-girlfriend, Terriann Holden. Holden had reportedly gone to bed that morning in a tent with another man, Timothy Culley — a situation that had apparently upset Santos.
Santos is accused of firing shots from a handgun while calling for Holden to exit the tent. After Holden reportedly told Santos to leave the area, Santos is alleged to have unzipped the tent, entered and pointed the gun at the heads of both Holden and Culley before ultimately firing a shot into the head of Culley, who died at the scene.
A witness in a nearby encampment called 911 around 6:12 a.m. to report the shooting. Holden, as well as a responding medic, provided Lompoc Police officers with a description of Santos, who fled on foot. Soon after, Lompoc Police officers secured the scene and were joined a short time later by deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Around 7:04 a.m., Lompoc Fire Battalion Chief Brian Federmann reportedly spotted Santos walking southbound on North A Street. Within minutes of Santos’ location being reported to police, Lompoc Police Sgt. Vincent Magallon arrived on scene, in the 700 block of North A Street, and reported witnessing Santos walking with his hands in his sweatshirt near his waistband. Magallon followed behind Santos and eventually turned on his lights and siren, but reported that Santos continued walking.
After another officer arrived on scene, Magallon allegedly got out of his black department-issued Crown Victoria and ordered Santos to “stop and show your hands.” Santos allegedly ignored this command and instead pointed his left arm toward Magallon and then immediately removed his right hand, which was holding a black gun pulled from his waistband.
Lompoc Police Officer Joseph Olivares, who had just arrived on scene with Lompoc Police Cpl. Brian Guerra, saw Santos draw his gun, and reportedly fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, opened fire on Santos.
Almost simultaneously, according to the DA’s report, Santos shot toward Magallon and hit a car door that Magallon was using for cover. This prompted Magallon to fire several shots in return at Santos.
Lompoc Police Cpl. Charles Scott, who was the second officer to arrive on scene after Magallon, reportedly also began shooting at Santos once he realized that Santos had opened fire on Magallon.
All five officers on scene, including Guerra and officer John Reyna, continued to fire at Santos until Santos fell to the ground and stopped moving, according to the report.
“Santos never retreated nor dropped his weapon until well after he fell to the ground,” read a portion of the DA’s report. “(Battalion Chief Federmann) was ‘surprised’ how long it took Santos to go down despite being hit with bullets.”
The report noted that a resident who was outside working on his car at the time of the shooting and witnessed the incident described the officers as “defending themselves like any person would defend themselves ... .”
Santos was ultimately pronounced dead at 7:37 a.m. at Lompoc Valley Medical Center. An autopsy report completed on Nov. 20, 2017, listed the cause of death as “multiple gunshot wounds.”
Dr. Manny Martinez, who performed the autopsy for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner's Office, reported finding eight gunshot wounds on Santos’ body, as well as two graze wounds, one to Santos’ finger and one to his right upper arm.
Given the findings of the DA’s report, it is unlikely that any charges will be pursued against the officers.
The city of Lompoc is in the midst of evicting inhabitants from the Santa Ynez Riverbed ahead of a planned cleanup of the area.