Crime - Sacto 911

Police sergeant tried to coax armed man into surrendering before officer fired his gun, video shows

A sergeant with the Sacramento Police Department tried to persuade a man holed up in a south Sacramento home bathroom to drop his gun for more than 30 minutes before a K9 officer fired his weapon, hitting the suspect several times, video released by the department on Tuesday shows.

The officers were called to the home on Sept. 18 after bail bond agents trying to serve a warrant for the man entered the home and saw he was armed with a gun, said Officer Eddie Macaulay, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department.

Kristopher Velez, 30, was wanted by bail bond agents in connection to a misdemeanor domestic violence case with a different agency, Macaulay said. He was charged with the misdemeanor count back in June but had not yet been arraigned, Sacramento Superior Court logs show. A previous misdemeanor child endangerment case filed in December 2016 indicated he was out on bail but failed to show up to court.

In the minutes leading up to the shooting, Velez talked to police from a bathroom of a home at the 7600 block of Bellini Way, expressing concerns about where he would go if police took him into custody and telling them he had “mental issues.” He fired a round from his gun from inside the bathroom at the beginning of his interaction with police, telling officers it was accidental, the footage shows.

Velez stood inside the bathroom, talking to officers through an open door at the start of the incident, eventually moving closer to the door frame and in view of police. In his hands, he fiddled with a handgun as a sergeant at the scene tried to get him to put it down on the floor.

The sergeant stood with his arms on his belt as he talked to Velez. Standing next to him, K9 officer John Harshbarger, who was identified by the department as the officer who fired his weapon and who recorded the incident on his body-worn camera, kept his gun drawn and aimed at Velez.

“Just remember, hands first, just like you’re diving,” the sergeant said, chuckling as he talked to Velez.

After more than 30 minutes of speaking with Velez, the sergeant told him to move back into the bathroom if he’s going to continue holding the gun in his hands. Seconds later, as Velez is moving toward the floor, Harshbarger fired his gun four times. The gun, and Velez’s hands, are out of the camera’s view just before Harshbarger fires his weapon.

“Down, down, stay,” Harshbarger screams at Velez.

“He was pointing (the gun) at us, it’s still underneath him,” he then says to the sergeant in the video.

The shooting was captured by the K9 officer’s body camera. The body camera video was one seven released Tuesday by the department showing the incident from different vantage points. Five in-car camera videos and dispatch audio of the incident were also released by police, all of which – under a new Sacramento city policy – must be made public within 30 days of an officer-involved shooting.

The videos show officers restraining Velez and calling for medics, who show up to the scene minutes later and take him out of the house.

Police say Velez was released from hospital but continues to recover from his injuries. He is no longer in police custody because the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against him in connection with the officer-involved shooting, Macaulay said.

Harshbarger, a 17-year-veteran of the department, was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, per department protocol, but has since returned to normal duty, Macaulay said.

He was named as one of two officers who fired their guns at a man who allegedly tried to hit police with his car at a gas station in 2014. The man was wanted on an outstanding warrant for various sex crimes and survived the shooting, according to a Sacramento Bee article. No use-of-force review of the incident was located on the Sacramento County District Attorney’s website Tuesday afternoon.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets