Crime - Sacto 911

DA: Citrus Heights police officers justified in Halloween shooting

Two Citrus Heights police officers were justified in their shooting of a 29-year-old man armed with a knife last fall, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

The officers, Chris Garborini and Detective Kane Kissam, will not face criminal prosecution as a result of the shooting, a prosecutor wrote in a letter to the officers and their department earlier this year.

The suspect, Pangagiotis Eliopoulos, who is now 30, was shot five times but survived. He remains in the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he is awaiting trial on several felony and misdemeanor charges related to the Oct. 31 incident with police.

In her letter, Deputy District Attorney Morgan Forrest wrote that by the time Garborini and Kissam came into contact with Eliopoulos, they knew he had been released from a psychiatric facility that morning, that he was seeking help for a methamphetamine addiction, that he had been threatening people with knives and that he had broken into a neighbor’s home and acted aggressively.

Eliopoulos ignored their commands to drop the knives he held – one in each hand – and charged at officers from a distance of 15 to 20 feet, Forrest wrote. At that point, officers had a legal right to use lethal force to protect themselves, Forrest determined.

Eliopoulos’ troubles began the night before the shooting, when he sought treatment for his methamphetamine habit at the Oak House Treatment Center on Oak Avenue in Citrus Heights. Staff members sent him to a medical clinic to get cleared before he could be admitted into rehab. At the clinic, he acted “paranoid,” refused to sign paperwork and ultimately ran into traffic, according to Forrest’s letter and court documents previously reviewed by The Sacramento Bee.

He told Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies who responded that there were microphones in his Q-tips and that an unspecified “they” were trying to kill him, Forrest wrote. Deputies took him to San Juan Medical Center on a “5150” mental health hold, referring to the welfare and institutions code that allows involuntary commitments for up to 72 hours if a person is believed to be a danger to himself or others or can’t take care of himself. For reasons not explained in the letter, Eliopoulos was released to his parents about 4:30 a.m.

About 9 a.m., Eliopoulos returned to the Oak House facility “extremely agitated and paranoid,” Forrest wrote. He armed himself with knives, and staff members called 911.

Eliopoulos ran from the facility and broke into a neighbor’s home, where he continued to exhibit “paranoid behavior,” Forrest wrote. He slapped the phone out of the hand of a person who tried to call 911, “slashed several Halloween decorations” and left, the prosecutor wrote.

The officers found Eliopoulos shortly thereafter as he came out of a shed at a nearby Christmas tree lot. After he ignored commands to put the knives down and “ran directly at the officers,” they fired a total of nine shots, Forrest wrote. Eliopoulos was struck five times.

Tests later indicated that Eliopoulos had methamphetamine, amphetamine and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system at the time, according to Forrest’s letter.

After he was treated, Eliopoulos was charged with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and criminal threats, as well as misdemeanor counts of brandishing, trespassing and vandalism. He is scheduled to appear in court July 8.

Sacramento attorney Robert Drescher filed a complaint last fall with the city of Citrus Heights for $10 million on behalf of Eliopoulos. He argued that the officers could have used less-lethal options, knowing the man’s mental health issues. The city rejected the claim, and Drescher told The Bee in December he intended to file a civil suit. On Wednesday, Drescher told The Bee he had been fired by Eliopoulos’ family.

No civil suits have been filed.

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