Witness disputes officer’s account of Los Alamos shooting

July 18, 2012

The woman whose boyfriend was shot three times in the chest after she called 911 to report he had a knife is disputing the California Highway Patrol officer’s account of the event. [KCOY]

CHP officials said the officer was responding to a report of 18-year-old Michael Ledesma threatening his girlfriend with a knife in a vehicle that also contained a small child. The officer then shot the suspect during a traffic stop on Sunday near Los Alamos.

Officials said Ledesma threatened the officer who was then forced to shoot him.

The Santa Maria man’s girlfriend, Elisa Morales, gives a very different account of the incident.

Morales, who was driving the car, told KCOY her boyfriend was drunk, depressed, bleeding and threatening to kill himself with a knife. She pulled over on Highway 135 and called 911 to get him help.

CHP officers then surrounded the vehicle, Ledesma stepped out with the knife and an officer fired three times.

“I don’t know if it was a warning shot or whatever, but he dropped it (the knife),” Morales told KCOY. “it wasn’t like he got shot and he dropped it, he dropped it himself and he just stood right there. Between the first shot, when he shot him and the knife fell, there was a gap, you know, there was a gap between the first shot and the next two shots and that’s when he fell over.”

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office has filed charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon on a female victim and peace officer, as well as felony child endangerment against Ledesma. He is listed in critical condition at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is conducting a preliminary investigation into the shooting.

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We call the police to help not harm. Its a problem when you no longer feel safe around police. Did they or did they not get trained for all situations. You dont go around shooting people.

You call the police for help. They go through special tactics training for situations like this so they dont have to kill. They are trigger happy and when you dont even feel safe to call the police its a problem. It would take a cop the same amout of time to pull out your tazer.

You call the police for help. They go through special tactics training for situations like this so they dont have to kill kids who are drunk or suspicious. They are trigger happy and when a resident or as ive heard from so many other people here in santa.maria dont even feel safe to call the police its a problem. It will take you the same amout of time to pull out your tazer gun rather than a gun and especially shoot to kill. If you must shoot try the leg or arm.

“JustThinking” must be one of those individuals who watches way too many police related television shows. This is not television. This is not “TJ Hooker” where you throw a baton and take down the crook. Read the post by “Mr. Holly” re: the dangers posed by a knife from considerable distance (he’s right), then suggest that an officer shoot a leg or an arm. You, sir, live in the fantasy world of TV, not the real world of police work under stress conditions. You may only get one chance to respond to a knife that poses a very real and immediate threat of serious injury or death to somone else or you and you cannot, and should not, try to shoot a leg or arm. It just isn’t reality and cops deal with reality, not TV police work. Obviously all the facts have to be reviewed, but at first blush this is not a “trigger happy” response, this is a shooting to neutralize a potential deadly threat.

I wish that someone from law enforcement could explain the use of the taser. I have seen the taser demonstrated by police officers. It’s not as simple as people think. There is a distance factor. You have to have a certain number of feet between you and the person you are tasing. The taser doesn’t always set, and if it doesn’t set then it just falls off the person.

It took two tries to get the taser set in the demo I saw. Once it’s set, you can deliver the shock until the person is subdued.

Now, if someone is up close coming at you with a knife (lethal force), do you respond with a non lethal weapon like the taser or a flashlight, or do you respond with lethal force (gun). Protocol is to use your gun.

This case very well might have been a suicide by cop situation.

I just got disgusted with the suicide by train case where the family hired an attorney ready to sue for money/damages when there was nothing that could have prevented the man who waited until the train was close and then backed up on the tracks. Meanwhile, the friends and family were making up all kinds of lies trying to blame Union Pacific so they could collect.

In this incident, it was the CHP who are not known for being trigger happy, and because the officer was quickly exonerated (witnesses, 911 tape, video cam), I’ll take their word over someone who seems to have reinvented her story either because of her own guilt (maybe this wasn’t the crisis that she related in the 911 call) or because the family thinks they can sue the CHP and get a settlement.

When KCOY interviewed this person, they didn’t ask any of the hard questions like what exactly did you say on the 911 call. Did you say that he threatened you? Did you say that you and your baby were in danger? They just related what she said–without checking out any facts, without checking out the credibility of the woman, etc.

She was not in a position to see what her boyfriend was doing (he would have had his back toward her) and her statement is suspect. Now you have all these people claiming racism because the guy attacking with a knife was a Hispanic gang member. Yes, the charges filed are with “gang enhancement”.

I can agree that Santa Maria is a mess with a goodly part of the population that just arrived from another country, gangs, drug dealers, and a bizarre police department, but the police are mainly Hispanic and trigger happy maybe because of the trigger happy population they deal with. Santa Maria, heal thyself.

There should be a videotape from the squad car. If there is discrepancy from the official account, the person being charged with attempted murder could change.

My question is, Why was a taser not used first ? Citizens supply these disabling but not deadly weapons to LE for a reason …and they’re not cheap. Why the resort to a gun if not an immediate need ?

There is a good question. Maybe distance? I don’t know.

The taser is a non-lethal tool to use to subdue a subject. A knife has been proven to be a deadly threat, as dangerous as a gun, within 21 feet. You would have to react very quickly and accurately to stop a knife attack from a person within 21 feet. Very likely you will get wounded. A taser will not necessarily work instantly. Say they guy was out of the car, about 25 feet away. He lurches towards you and you have your taser aimed at him so you deploy it immediately. He shakes it off, or miss, or he has thick clothes, or he overpowers it because of drugs, and he is now 10 feet from you by the time you realize the tazer does not work. So, you are 10 feet away from a very pissed guy with a knife, gun in holster, ready to be cut up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

The only way this could possibly be worked out in a perfect world would be with two officers with lethal force available and another with bean bag shotgun or a taser. But if when he was pulled over and the guy jumps out, you have seconds to stop him from cutting you or the woman/child in the car.

This is very interesting. Law enforcement personel are trained that people with knives can easily attack them within 15-20 feet before they can react. So if the assailiant got out of the car and was approaching the officer with a knife it will be interestring to see how close he was and in what way he was approaching the officer.

I’m glad that the officer went home to his family and that the assailiant went to the hospital. The flip flop to this would have been horrible. But of course all of the politics will be put into the investigation and we will see where it goes from there.

Approach a police officer with a weapon be ready to suffer the consequences.

You make a lot of ASSumptions for someone who wasn’t there. Where is your proof that the victim was an ASSAILANT?

Never call the police when someone you know is threatening to harm themselves especially if the person has weapon, the police will make it worse and there is a good chance your loved one will end up dead Handle it yourself, call another friend to help or one of their family members. Do not call the police to ever help anyone you love, it usually doesn’t turn out very well. The police usually make things worse in the long run, just ask any parent who has tried it.

Being involved in a number of calls like this, I can say it is not ALWAYS true that LE makes it worse. But as you pointed out, think before you act if you have time and know the person well enough to make a judgment that it’s more of a cry for help then a psychotic episode that could quickly make a turn for the worse.

We were taught that if you do not follow protocol, then any judgment call you made that goes south is then on you. Since time is of the essence, and often a call can go either way, it’s not always an easy decision.

There are other professionals besides LE that can help. Know the numbers of these organizations if you feel they may be a better avenue.

Myself, knowing the liability involved, I would never tell anyone to NEVER call LE. But that is a decision each of us will have to make when/if the need arises.

I know two mothers that lost sons this way . Very similar situations. Young guy not threatening anyone except himself, but confused and chemically impaired …with a knife. They were told to drop the knife and did not do it fast enough, so the trigger happy cop shoots and kills.

Summary execution.

Thing is, the victims are everyone. Dead guy, relatives, even the cop that does the shooting.

One of the cops in the cases I know first hand eventually committed suicide. Couldn’t live with himself.

Ordinary guys get pressured by the sociopaths in the organization to behave like unthinking bullies, then even decent guys committ unconscionable acts.

The 911 tape will show if the female stated she was being threatened or not. If she did state that, then what does one expect? You call LE ad ask for help and your life is on the line, the officer comes to your aid.

If the female did not state her life was being threatened then the details will unfold in time.

When it comes to officer involved shootings, I never develop a concrete conclusion until all the facts are unraveled. Remember LE often only has milliseconds at times to make life and death decisions. Few of these calls are totally black and white. The shades of gray can be more complex than one may realize. A 20 year veteran usually follows protocol.

Keep us posted on this.

If the man had threatened the woman and/or the child …it may have been the officers only chance to prevent him from re-entering the car and harming them…if thats what was happening he did what he had to do!

Did you read the same story that I just read? According to the witness who is the same woman who placed the 911 call, he was threatening to kill himself, not her or the child. Where do you people come up with your twists and excuses? IF? IF?

We have to keep in mind at this stage, the short articles have little information and what there is may be faulty. Myself, I prefer that shootings are investigated b qualified citizens apportioned or voted into the position. No agency should investigate itself. No matter if it’s Washington DC or our local LE. A panel with no political or monetary connections should investigate.

Sorry for typos.. I see no editing function?

Cindy talk about if if. You are using the typical luxary of monday morning quarterback. You have the time to look at the situation and come up with an answer. He had seconds.

How do you know this witness is now telling the truth? Don’t be so gullible.

How do you know she wasnt from the start?! You dont be so gullible! Their cops trying to cover their own butts, they can say what they want!

Even if Elisa Morales is right that her boyfriend hadn’t threatened her but was depressed etc. Mr. Ledesma himself set up the chain of events leading up to the shooting. The cop barely gets there and has no time to access the situation before Mr. Ledesma is already stepping out of the car with a knife. Split second decisions are made. If her account is true it is unforunate for Mr. Ledesma but again his actions put the chain of events in motion.

Actually BTDT, it’s my impression that the 911 call put the chain of events in motion. The man was obviously in a state of despair and if he was threatening to kill himself, then he was not thinking straight. It was the dispatchers responsibility to relay this “VERY IMPORTANT” information to the responding Officers. We are supposed to help save people who are attempting to take their own lives, not take their life for them.

We have to keep in mind at this stage, the short articles have little information and what there is may be faulty. Myself, I prefer that shootings are investigated b qualified citizens apportioned or voted into the position. No agency should investigate itself. No matter if it’s Washington DC or our local LE. A panel with no political or monetary connections should investigate.

Very true, I agree. It’s not always an option when a citizen or officers life is in jeopardy from the person who’s life is spiraling downward caused by depression, medications, recreational drugs or a combination of these. It’s a sober fact of what goes on in the life of LE ad even the military at times.

Let’s see what transpires in due time concerning this call and revisit it.

Cindy your comment about 911 is like people saying that guns kill people. No people do. Same here. Did that 911 call place itself??