More details in the State Street shooting by two Santa Barbara police officers have been released. Police have identified the man killed by police as Wilfred A. Turner, 24, of Oxnard.
Turner had driven up with two male friends from Oxnard, parked in the Bank of America parking lot at 834 State Street, and walked downtown. Outside of the Habit restaurant, the group ran into another group of “at least three men” and a 16-year-old female who also were from Oxnard, according to police. Turner had disputes with a man in the other group over the man’s romantic involvement with Turner’s 20-year-old wife, Lt. Paul McCaffrey said. After exchanging words, the groups began to fight.
Meanwhile, two Santa Barbara police officers saw the commotion and were walking over to restore order when Turner allegedly pulled a .45 caliber automatic handgun from his cargo pants pocket and began pointing the gun at people. The two officers both drew their handguns and fired multiple rounds, hitting Turner, who died at the scene. 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. “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. McCaffrey wouldn’t say how many shots were fired. No one else was injured, but the front tire on the passenger side of cab driver Brian Gray’s taxi was hit by either a bullet or a fragment. His car had been parked right outside the Habit. “I saw a cop shooting,” said Gray, who was inside his vehicle at the time. “I think he unloaded a clip.”
Police brought numerous witnesses back to the station to determine what happened, and were investigating at the scene, with State Street closed between Ortega and Cota Streets, until about 9 a.m.
Police found the pick-up truck Turner arrived to Santa Barbara in, a Chevrolet – owned by Randall Leon Johnson, 23 – and found a second handgun inside the truck. Johnson was arrested for fighting in public and for possession of a concealed firearm in a vehicle. Two others, Mark Anthony Smith, 22, and Terence Ruben, 24, were arrested for fighting in public, although it isn’t clear if they were fighting with or against Turner. According to police, Turner and the other men he was with were stationed in Port Hueneme as servicemen in the U.S. Navy, but Turner left the service suddenly last June.
The two officers who fired the rounds have been placed on administrative leave, as is common practice in cases where officers fire shots. The District Attorney’s office will eventually be handed the investigation to determine the legality of using deadly force. The department also has a strict internal investigation protocol to ensure every action was appropriate for the situation.
McCaffrey said with the increased Fiesta crowd around and a man pointing a gun, police can’t dictate the situation. “Real life happens,” he said. “They couldn’t help the circumstances. In this case no one else was shot or wounded.”