District attorney’s investigators have completed their reviews into two separate deadly police shootings that occurred in Orange County last year and found both were justified, officials announced Thursday.
All officers used reasonable force in both incidents, which occurred on May 31 at a therapist’s office in Fullerton and July 1 inside a Santa Ana parking garage, O.C. DA Todd Spitzer said in a news conference Thursday.
The county’s top prosecutor said both instances involved individuals in a pressured mental state who died after coming into contact with authorities.
“Clearly these two decedents were dealing with difficult situations in their lives and as a result of the interaction with law-enforcement it resulted in their deaths,” Spitzer said.
DA found Fullerton officers acted to save therapist’s life
Last year on May 31, officers responded to the 1600 block of East Chapman Avenue around 7:30 a.m. to find Katherine Brazeau, 46, of Santa Ana, barricading herself inside the office of therapist Jacki Stevens, 40, according the DA’s report.
Stevens had called authorities and said she had been stabbed as police were responding to the scene. When police arrived and confronted Brazeau, armed with a knife, they shot and killed her.
Stevens had been treating Brazeau since 2015 for traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, according to a report by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
In February 2018, the therapist said she could no longer provide treatment to Brazeau citing the patient’s “self-destructive decisions” and informed Brazeau that she could no longer see her, the report said.
Brazeau did not take the notice well, according to authorities.
The patient told Stevens that she knew where the therapist lived and threatened to harm herself if Stevens stopped treating her, the report said.
In March, the therapist sought a restraining order against Brazeau that authorities said she kept violating over the following weeks by sending Stevens emails and text messages.
Authorities said Brazeau had also filed a “fabricated” claim with the California state licensing board that alleged that Stevens had “engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the patient,” according to the report.
The therapist was granted a permanent restraining order, but the threats did not stop, authorities said.
The day before the incident, Brazeau told detectives over the phone that she was “probably extremely intoxicated” when she violated the protective order, and admitted to going to the therapist’s office, interrupting a session with another patient, and yelling profanities at Stevens. The detective explained the terms of the protective order and Brazeau “became upset and hung up on the detective,” the report said.
The next day, while the therapist was at her office, she looked up and found Brazeau standing in the doorway, armed with a knife, authorities said.
Brazeau then stepped inside, locked the door and lunged at the therapist, stabbing her in the back, near her spine, according to the DA’s Office.
During the stabbing, another one of Stevens’ patients arrived and heard screaming. She called 9-1-1.
The therapist also managed to call police. She could be heard over the phone pleading with Brazeau to put the knife down, police said.
When officers arrived at the scene, a terrified patient pointed officers towards Stevens’ office.
Officers commanded the suspect to come out but there was no response from behind the closed door, body cam footage showed.
An officer repeatedly kicked the door until part of it broke. Inside, they saw Brazeau standing over the therapist, inches away, holding a large silver knife pointed towards Stevens in one hand, and had another pressed against her, the video showed.
Stevens was on her back, screaming for help.
The two officers could be heard repeatedly commanding Brazeau to put the knife down in the body cam footage.
Brazeau moved the knife closer to Stevens and yelled, “f—ing shoot me, shoot me.”
The officers continued commanding Brazeau to put the knife down.
Brazeau then swung the knife in a stabbing motion towards Steven’s torso and both officers shot at her. She fell to the ground.
Officers and paramedics performed life-saving measures on her, but she succumbed to her injuries on the office floor, according to the DA’s office.
Stevens was escorted out, a stab wound on her back and her shirt bloodied. She was transported to the hospital suffering from non-life threatening injuries, authorities said.
DA found Santa Ana officer lawfully acted to save himself from harm
The night of July 1, one officer was sent to a parking structure at 1020 W. Civic Center Drive after someone who’d parked there called 911 around 11:30 p.m. upon spotting Donadony Blake Taylor standing near his vehicle and assuming he was trying to break in, according to the DA’s report.
Taylor was armed with a two- to three-foot-long metal pipe and a one- to two-foot metal stake, and was under the influence of amphetamine and methamphetamine, investigators said.
The officer who responded, identified only as Officer Roelofs, parked his patrol car near the suspect and immediately made contact with him. Within 32 second, Taylor had been fatally shot, officials said.
The report describes a tense confrontation between the two. It says Roelofs immediately held the armed suspect at gunpoint and ordered him to drop the pipe he was carrying.
The officer called for help and repeated his order several times. The investigation states that Taylor at one point replied “shoot me” and took a batting stance.
Roelofs deployed his stun gun but it apparently was ineffective; then, Roelofs dropped the stun gun.
As Taylor moved to remove one of the weapon’s probes from his body, Roelofs shot him twice, according to the DA’s office.
Taylor was wounded in his upper chest and back upper arm on the left side of his body, the coroner found.
Investigators said they interviewed 13 people involved and reviewed bodycam, audio dispatch and radio traffic, among other evidence, before concluding that Roelofs acted lawfully.