Officers Justified in Using Deadly Force
DA's Office Examines Fatal Shooting of Suspected Santa Maria Drug Dealer
The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office has determined that Santa Maria police officers were justified in using deadly force as they attempted to arrest a suspected drug dealer last December. Samyr Ceballos was shot and killed by the officers — two of whom sustained non-life threatening injuries from friendly fire — when he pointed a loaded pistol at them during the incident.
The report makes it clear that the DA only looked at whether the use of deadly force was appropriate, not whether the officers followed proper policies and procedures. “Those issues and other related issues remain under the sole jurisdiction of the Santa Maria Police Department and the City of Santa Maria,” the report reads. Citing applicable law, the report states: “Under California law, anyone, including a police officer, who is threatened with an attack that justifies the use of self-defense, need not retreat. The person attacked may stand his ground and defend himself, if necessary, by deadly force, even if he might have more easily gained safety by flight.”
On December 8, 2011, 10 officers — from the SWAT, narcotics, and gang units — met to serve a drug-related search warrant at Ceballos’s residence. During the briefing, they were told Ceballos often carried a gun and had a number of prior arrests for violent crimes. He had also reportedly threatened a future shoot-out with police to avoid another arrest.
When Caballos pulled up to his house, officers swarmed his car and demanded to see his hands. He reportedly refused, instead pulling out a loaded 9mm handgun and pointing it at the officers. The officers tried to wrestle him from the car, deploying a Taser in the process, but he maintained control of the pistol. During a quick and confusing sequence of events, four officers discharged their firearms, firing a total of 12 rounds. Caballos was hit between 5-7 times by three different officers. He died at the scene.
During the shootout, two officers were struck by crossfire. One was shot twice, once in each hand. The other was struck in the leg. Both recovered from their wounds. “The injuries were apparently inflicted with fellow officers felt the potential crossfire problems were outweighed by the immediacy of the suspect attempting to fire the 9mm handgun at their fellow officers,” the report reads.
Read the DA’s full report below.