Although the Santa Barbara Police Department has released few details about the officer-involved shooting that left a knife-wielding man dead near the corner of Victoria and De la Vina streets Sunday night, The Santa Barbara Independent spoke to several residents in the area who shed some light on how the incident unfolded.
De la Vina resident Patricia Cordero said she was jolted awake by the sound of five or so gunshots at around 11:30 p.m. Sunday night. When she walked outside onto her porch, she said, she saw two police cruisers on the street. “Within seconds,” Cordero went on, “about 10 cop cars pulled up.” Cordero said officials stayed at the scene overnight until around 8 a.m. the next morning when they removed the body. “They literally investigated everything,” she said.
Greg Slater — who lives in an apartment building at the intersection of Victoria and De la Vina — said he watched the confrontation take place from his upstairs window. He said he first looked outside after hearing the buzzer of a police car and then saw a police officer standing about 20 feet away from a man who was holding a six-inch knife by his side.
“The cop told him to stop and drop the knife,” Slater recalled. “He turned around and started walking toward the officer. The officer told him again to stop and drop the knife or he would shoot. Then the guy said, ‘Yeah, I know,’ and just kept walking toward him.” Slater said he then heard about four gunshots, and that the whole event took a matter of seconds. “It looked to me like suicide by cop,” he added.
Slater recalled that the suspect appeared to be a large, six-foot-tall man who had a beard and was wearing a baseball cap. He said he thought the man was white, or possibly Latino, but that it was hard to tell because it was dark outside. “It looked justified to me,” Slater said. “It looked like it was textbook. I mean, the guy was a threat — he didn’t put his weapon down.”
Slater’s next door neighbor, Dennis Burke, also got out of bed around 11:30 p.m. when he heard a police car pull up outside of his apartment. He also recalled hearing an officer yell “Drop the knife!” repeatedly, followed by several gun shots. “It happened so quick it was unbelievable,” he said. “He looked like he could have been a dangerous guy,” Burke added.
“I heard the officer calling out to somebody further down on Victoria,” Burke also said. “I don’t know if this individual had been involved in an incident further down the street — I’d really like to know what that guy had been doing.” He said a police officer knocked on nearby doors about 10 or 15 minutes after the shooting to ask apartment residents to recall what they had seen or heard.
Another apartment resident, Henry Delavega, said he first remembered hearing a police officer yell, “Drop the knife!” several times. He said he then heard several gunshots. “At first, I thought it was a backfire. I thought it was kids fooling around.” Delavega also expressed concern because he knows that the entrance to his apartment building is unlocked all night. “I don’t know if they were chasing him or what. Everything happened so fast. It was so dark.”
Victoria Street resident Marian Sorensen said she heard gunshots down the street as well. But, she asked, “Why didn’t they taze him?” She also expressed frustration because her young son saw the deceased man’s uncovered body on the sidewalk before it was removed. “Why didn’t they cover the body right away?” she wondered.
Other nearby residents down both streets said they heard anywhere between four to eight gunshots just before midnight. They added that officials cordoned off a two-block radius around the scene until the next morning. As of 4 p.m. Monday, a bouquet of flowers had been placed next to a utility pole at the intersection.