While officials continue to investigate exactly how a suspect died shortly after being detained last month, Fullerton police on Friday released bodycam video surrounding the fatal incident.
It represents the first time the department has ever made such footage public before the completion of an investigation.
Interim Chief Bob Dunn said it was put out so that the community can have “a better understanding of what occurred based on what we know today.”
The 25-minute release includes bodycam video from three separate encounters police had with 22-year-old Daniel Espinosa before he died in their custody on Feb. 11, along with security footage from a home break-in officials learned of after his death.
The final run-in Espinosa had with police occurred after a woman reported a man acting erratically in the street in the 200 block of South Kellogg Avenue around 5:20 p.m. She said he was stopping traffic and yelling at people, telling dispatch, “He doesn’t look all there.”
When officers arrived, they recognized Espinosa from the other recent incidents, during which he’d also shown erratic and violent behavior, Lt. Jon Radus said.
Just before 4 p.m. that same day, Espinosa’s father had called police to report his son was being disruptive and told them he would possibly fight with officers when they arrived.
Bodycam video shows the father, in Spanish, tell police Espinosa was under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine.
“He’s out of his mind,” he told an officer, switching back to English.
Espinosa can be heard breathing heavily as police attempt to calm him down. When they question him about whether he would ever harm anyone, he responds, “Never.”
“If you come out here and do anything that’s illegal, we’ll have to take you to jail,” an officer tells him. “If you stay inside and sleep off your high and don’t hurt your and yourself, we’ll leave you here.”
The family told police that they didn’t want any further action taken against their son that day, so authorities left, Radus said.
In a separate incident on Feb. 2, Espinosa attempted to fight with firefighters leaving a scene in the area of Valencia Drive and Magnolia Avenue. Police responded, and a struggle ensued as they attempted to detain him.
Bodycam video from that incident shows Espinosa becoming increasing enraged, saying little as police repeatedly try to offer their help. He eventually lunges at them after a few minutes.
Espinosa was eventually detained and found to be in possession of methamphetamine, Radus said. The suspect was then taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
In his final encounter with police on Kellogg Avenue, Espinosa almost immediately became aggressive with officers, Radus said.
“All you have to do is stay in your house,” an officer tells him in the bodycam footage. “I don’t have any problems with you, Daniel.”
Police fired multiple sponge gun rounds at him, then deployed a stun gun several times. But both methods were unsuccessful, and a physical fight ensued.
In the video, Espinosa screams as he’s tackled to ground and handcuffed. He can then be heard alternately breathing heavily and shrieking as officers search his body.
As is protocol when a stun gun is deployed, paramedics responded to take him to a hospital for medical evaluation.
After Espinosa’s combative conduct continued, the paramedics contacted hospital staff and were granted permission to administer a sedative in attempt to calm him, Radus said.
Espinosa was loaded into an ambulance and stopped breathing while en route to the hospital. He was pronounced dead after arriving.
Three officers had been injured in the struggle, but all were treated and released.
While continuing to investigate, police learned Espinosa had broken into a home in the 200 block of South Kellogg about 20 minutes before officers arrived.
Home security video shows him repeatedly kicking and punching the front door of a home where police said a woman was home alone.
He eventually breaks down the door while the terrified woman screams but stayed only a few seconds before fleeing.
Both Fullerton police and Orange County district attorney’s officials are investigating the in-custody death.