The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office determined that the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Bryan Carreño by Sheriff’s deputies on February 12, 2017, was a justifiable homicide. Five deputies shot Carreño 20 times in the back patio of a La Cumbre–area home, after Carreño ― under the influence of multiple drugs, including methamphetamine ― approached them with a large kitchen knife, according to the District Attorney’s report published this Thursday.
“The five deputies, penned in the small patio by a steep hillside, reasonably feared that the suspect would lunge at one or more of them, stabbing or slashing them and causing great bodily injury or death with the large knife,” the report’s legal analysis states. “Each of the five deputies reasonably discharged their service firearm multiple times in order to stop Carreño from inflicting death or great bodily injury on themselves or their fellow deputies.”
While the District Attorney’s report focused heavily on the events leading up to the shooting, the incident itself received only a short description lacking in significant detail. The report did not state how far the deputies were from Carreño when they opened fire, only that Carreño walked toward them until he was within “lunging distance.” The dimensions of the patio were also not provided. It was described alternately as “small,” “very small,” and “extremely small.” Google satellite imagery suggests it measures approximately 25 feet by 25 feet. It’s unclear if the deputies tried to create a safe distance between themselves and Carreño before firing, or if they attempted any de-escalation techniques during their confrontation.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. on the night of the shooting, Carreño’s father, Nicolas ― a retired Santa Barbara Sheriff’s custody deputy ― called 9-1-1 asking for help at his home on North La Cumbre Road. He said his was son under the influence of an unknown drug and roaming their neighborhood. He was worried Carreño was “going to do something stupid.” Nicolas told the dispatcher Carreño was “tripping out really, really bad” and had scared a neighbor by jumping over her fence.
A short time later, 9-1-1 dispatchers heard from another neighbor, who reported Carreño had entered his home. A nearby resident also called to say Carreño was “busting through her gate” and “freaking out,” according to the report. The five deputies began a lengthy search of the neighborhood, aided by a Sheriff’s canine and helicopter. In one backyard they located a large knife on the ground. Carreño’s father had also told the deputies his son often carried a long-handled hatchet.
The search eventually brought the deputies at approximately 8:45 p.m. to an empty home at 695 Russell Way, where they found a black hat on the ground that matched the description of what Carreño had been wearing. Lights on in the house allowed them to see much of the interior, though the backyard and back patio were dark. Led by their search dog, which had locked on to a scent and was tugging them toward the rear of the house, the deputies made their way along a “narrow walkway” that took them past a swimming pool to the patio, the report states.
The deputies announced their presence and ordered Carreño to exit the home. When they received no response, two of the deputies and the dog entered through a rear door. Carreño then exited an interior bedroom and began walking into the living room, waving a 12-inch kitchen knife in his right hand. The deputies retreated back outside. “Immediately, the deputies began yelling, ‘He’s got a knife!’ and ‘drop the knife!’” the report says. “Carreño appeared agitated but the deputies could not hear what he was yelling as the glass double doors were closed.”
Carreño then opened the double doors and began walking down the patio’s steps toward the deputies, according to the report. He repeatedly yelled, “Shoot me!” and “Kill me!” and ignored commands to drop the knife and get on the ground. “Multiple deputies described Carreño having a ‘thousand yard stare,’ where he was looking right through them,” the report states. They felt endangered as “the patio area was extremely small, had only one narrow exit, and was surrounded partially by a fence and entirely by a steep drop-off.” All five deputies opened fire when Carreño got within “lunging distance of multiple deputies.”
Once Carreño fell, a deputy placed pressure on a wound to his femoral artery and two others began CPR. Paramedics arrived within a few minutes and pronounced Carreño dead at the scene. The coroner’s report said Carreño sustained 20 gunshot wounds to his head, torso, and limbs with perforations to his brain, heart, lungs, liver, and intestines. A toxicology analysis revealed alcohol, amphetamine, methamphetamine, cannabinoids, and fentanyl in his system.
The following day, Santa Barbara authorities publicly identified Carreño and released his criminal record. Carreño had been previously arrested for domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon. In 2010, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor charge, as well as other low-level alcohol-related charges. Carreño also had charges pending for misdemeanor battery and probation violation at the time of his death.
Carreño was named in the city’s proposed gang injunction, which was ultimately thrown out. He was featured in a video produced by Youth CineMedia, which works with at-risk youth, protesting the injunction. A Santa Barbara City College student, Carreño was majoring in English when he was killed.
Carreño’s friends and family have since accused the Sheriff’s deputies of using excessive force in their confrontation with Carreño, and they have considered filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The deadline to file a state-level lawsuit is February 12. The deadline for a federal complaint is also February 12, 2019.