Editor’s note: The videos in this story show body camera recordings that some viewers may find disturbing.
Police in Escondido have released surveillance and body-worn camera footage showing an officer fatally shooting a 59-year-old homeless man who had been accused of hitting cars with a metal pole that turned out to be a crowbar.
Steven John Olson was pronounced dead at a local hospital after being shot multiple times by Officer Chad Moore just after 7 a.m. April 21 near the intersection of Broadway and Second Avenue, KTLA sister station KSWB in San Diego reported.
“Steven! You are gonna get shot!” Moore yells at him in the video.
“I know and you’re gonna get hit,” Olson replies, as he continues to walk toward Moore with the crowbar in his right hand.
Police Chief Ed Varso said the nearly nine-minute audio and video presentation was prepared “to give our community a better understanding of the events surrounding an officer-involved shooting,” which resulted in Olson’s death.
Olson had a nearly two-decade history of arrests, and police had arrested him for threatening people four times in the past year with a box cutter, knife, piece of metal and a stick. He had also been referred to mental health services, but he had not received the help he needed, Varso said.
The full video, which contains content some viewers may find disturbing, can be watched below:
The video opens with a portion of the 911 call describing Olson’s appearance, clothing and approximate location to a police dispatcher. Surveillance video of the area shows Olson in a light-colored shirt walking in a parking lot, but it does not appear to capture him hitting any vehicles.
It picks up again with Escondido police Lt. Kevin Toth describing body-worn camera video of the first encounter with Olson by an Officer Martinez. Video shows Martinez approach Olson, who then was facing a dumpster away from him, saying, “Steven, Steven. Put the crowbar down, dude.”
Olson takes several steps toward Martinez where the video shows him carrying a 2-foot-long crowbar and a squeegee. Martinez repeats his request several times for Olson to put down the crowbar, to which Olson asks, “Which one?”
“The one in this hand. Put it down,” Martinez said. “Throw it down on the ground, dude.”
But Olson did not appear to put down either item, slowly backing away and then running.
“Olson displayed erratic behavior and he was speaking incoherently,” Toth said. “However, he displayed no threatening behaviors and he ultimately ran away.”
Officers decided not to pursue Olson, according to Toth. Instead, they stayed in the area to contact the 911 caller and gather more information.
Moore, who has been with the department since 2013, was en route to an unrelated burglary alarm when he encountered Olson walking in the roadway at Broadway and Second Avenue. Moore recognized Olson “as the subject described in the previous 911 call and he had numerous contacts with him in the past,” Toth said.
The first part of Moore’s bodycam video shows him addressing Olson over his police vehicle’s loudspeaker. Moore then steps out of the vehicle; Olson walks in Moore’s direction. Olson takes a peek into the police vehicle as Moore asks him to drop what he’s holding.
“Steven, you’re gonna get shot,” Moore says.
“I know and you’re gonna get hit,” Olson replies.
The video shows Moore repeating his warning to drop the item as he backs away from Olson. In all, Moore backed away some 65 feet and delivered several “use of force warnings” before firing seven rounds at Olson from roughly 7 feet away, Toth said.
“3K shots fired,” Moore says into his radio. “Suspect is down. Start medics. I am Code-4,” meaning Moore was uninjured.
Footage also shows officers rendering aid to Olson before he was taken to the hospital.
Varso noted that Olson has been arrested nearly 200 times since 2002 for assaults, drug charges and vandalism, among other alleged offenses. Toth added in Thursday’s video that Olson had been arrested four times in the past year for threatening people with deadly weapons, including a box cutter, a knife, a piece of metal and a stick.
He had already been the subject of 21 radio calls for service this year, according to Toth, who said Olsen had served prison time for assault with a deadly weapon, and had been placed on five mental health holds since 2015.
“Steven needed intensive help,” Varso said in the video. “Instead, he was placed into a seriously flawed revolving-door system that processes people from jail to the streets, to services to the streets, back to jail and back to the streets.”
Under state law, police departments must release video of fatal encounters or other critical incidents within 45 days. Protesters demonstrated outside the police station before the footage was released about eight days after Olson was killed.
Moore, who has been with the department for eight years, has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
The shooting is also expected to be reviewed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.