A man was shot and killed by a Santa Barbara police officer outside The Habit Burger Grill restaurant on State Street just before midnight Friday. Witnesses described hearing multiple shots – reports varied from five shots, to seven, to an entire “clip” – and a chaotic scene with people taking cover and ducking. According to Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a fight broke out amongst several male suspects in front of the restaurant at around 11:50 p.m., and one suspect pulled out a handgun. “Moments later, several shots were fired,” McCaffrey said in a release. Police officers, who were out in full force due to the Fiesta holiday, responded immediately. “When we first arrived it was obviously chaotic,” McCaffrey told a group of media gathered at Ortega and State Streets. “Every officer in De la Guerra Plaza was on the run,” one witness said. Clubs, bars, restaurants, and all other businesses were almost immediately shut down, and patrons were forced to leave.
Police had State Street blocked off at Cota and Ortega Streets and, as of 3 a.m., were still working at the scene. Some media was lingering, as well as a cab driver whose cab was locked behind the police line and could not be accessed.
Another cab driver, Brian Gray of Yellow Taxi, said his cab had been parked right outside the Habit, and the front tire on the passenger side of his car had been shot. “I saw a cop shooting,” said Gray, who was inside his vehicle at the time. “I think he unloaded a clip.”
Witnesses report seeing an African-American man wearing a “do-rag” being “dragged” to a police vehicle, but there were no official reports of arrests being made. McCaffrey said there were quite a few witnesses taken to the police department and he was unsure if any of them will be taken into custody. “Literally hundreds of people heard the shots,” he said.
Police Chief Cam Sanchez was spotted on the scene around 2:30 a.m., but refused to comment on the incident. McCaffrey was also was mum on the details. “When there’s an officer involved in the shooting it’s important to make sure I’m right the first time,” he said. “It’s important to be factual.” He said any information he releases to the public has to first be run by the higher-ups in the department.
The forensic unit was on the scene taking photographs and investigating. A flood light, which was sitting in the middle of State Street, as well as a fire truck’s aerial ladder, were used to help officers light and photograph the scene. Evidence near the body, which was covered with a white tarp, appeared to be a weapon, and McCaffrey confirmed a gun had been recovered.
No information is available about the deceased man. There were no other injuries, and the incident is still under investigation. Police reopened the 600 block of State Street at around 9 a.m. Saturday morning, but because of the uncertainty regarding when the street would reopen, the route of the Children’s Parade – which was supposed to end at State and Ortega Streets – will now run along State Street from Victoria to Canon Perdido Street.