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DA Declines to Press Charges Against Officer Amos

August 29, 2009

In two interviews with Sierra Madre Police Chief Marilyn Diaz Thursday and Friday, the Chief informed me that approximately two weeks ago she received word from the District Attorney that in the SMPD Officer Involved Shooting on Jan. 30th, the D.A.’s office “declined to press charges, because they found no criminal intent.”

As reported on SierraMadreNews.Net on Jan. 30th, an unidentified SMPD officer was involved in a shooting at SMPD.  At the time, LASD had provided the following information:  According to Deputy Sheriff Oscar Butao, Sheriffs homicide detectives responded to the 200 block of W. Sierra Madre Blvd. to assist SMPD personnel in investigating the circumstances surrounding an officer involved shooting.  According to the Sheriff's Dept. report, an SMPD officer recovered a Nissan Murano that had been reported stolen in Pacifica.  The officer had the vehicle towed to a covered garage at the SMPD station.  While the officer was in the process of opening the locked vehicle, he was confronted by the suspect who had been hiding under a blanket in the cargo area of the vehicle.  At that time, an officer involved shooting occurred.  The 46-year old suspect was struck in the upper torso and transported to a local hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.  The officer was not injured.  According to the report, and Sheriff Butao, there is no more information at this time.

 Over the next several weeks, I was frustrated by the LASD’s failure to return phone calls asking for updates.  Chief Diaz had repeatedly informed me that she was unable to discuss the incident with me while the investigation was ongoing.  The Chief told me she would try to get the LASD to respond to my calls, but they never called back.

Fast forward to August 5th, when Alfred Lee of the Pasadena Star News ran a story stating that the Officer involved, now identified as Officer Henry (Hank) Amos, was back on duty.  In Mr. Lee’s report he stated “But when police officers opened up the hatchback of the SUV, they were surprised to find the suspect in the vehicle's cargo area, where he had been sleeping under a blanket.”  This was the first I’d heard that there was more than one officer involved in the incident.  After receiving an e-mail from a concerned reader asking for more details, I sent an e-mail off to the Chief, requesting more details.

The Chief and I played phone tag until yesterday, when she stopped by my office to discuss another situation, and I decided to follow up on the Officer Amos incident while I had her attention.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my questions with me, so I had to work off memory.  Unlike most interviews, I did not have my voice recorder, so I have done my best to report our conversation.  Some things may be paraphrased, rather than quotes, and some things may be out of chronological order as questions and answers were asked.

The first thing I asked was if the Star News article was correct, that there was another officer on the scene when the shooting took place.  She told me there was another officer on the scene.  I asked if there had been any action taken with that officer, disciplinary, etc..  She said the other officer was a witness only.  I asked her if allowing Officer Amos to return to duty before the District Attorney’s office had decided whether or not to file charges didn’t put the Department at risk, i.e., what if after returning to duty, the D.A. decided to file charges?  The Chief said that she was confident, from the Sierra Madre internal investigation and the LASD investigation, that reinstating Officer Amos was the right thing to do.  The Chief added that in the last two weeks (since the reinstatement), the District Attorney’s office had declined to file charges against Officer Amos, as they found no criminal intent in his actions.

I’m not sure if it was at this point or not, but the Chief at one point said that there are security cameras in the area where the shooting took place, and there is video that was reviewed as well.  I asked if that wasn’t something that I might get access to through the Freedom of Information Act.  The Chief stated that the Freedom of Information Act would not allow release of video that might effect an ongoing investigation.  I pointed out that SMPD’s investigation was complete, the LASD investigation was complete, and the D.A. had now determined not to press charges, so it sounded like that investigation was complete.  The Chief told me that the D.A.’s investigation into whether or not to file charges against the suspect was not yet complete.  While published reports had indicated that no charges were filed against the suspect, that did not mean that there will not be charges filed at some point.  The Chief said that the D.A.’s office had requested more information, and the SMPD was getting that information together for them.

There’s more to this story, which I’ll be publishing probably on Monday or Tuesday.  I have requested more information, and when I get it, I’ll be able to do a more complete report.  If it takes longer to get the info, the article may be published later.  One thing I will say, though, to dispel some of the misinformation about this incident that is being spread, is that the Chief has confirmed for me that the suspect was NOT asleep at the time he was shot.  Comment on this article

Followup - I received a copy of the District Attorney's report, but it was sent with a confidential notice that prohibits me from publishing it. 

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