District attorney finds fatal Santa Maria police shooting justified

July 18, 2023


The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has ruled a Santa Maria police officer was justified in using deadly force when, at the end of a long standoff last year, he shot and killed a man armed with knives who attempted to break into an apartment occupied by a woman and her child, who were reportedly afraid for their lives. 

In video footage of the Oct. 30, 2022 incident, Salvador Qual Maceda, 36, can be seen throwing a knife, a bicycle and chairs at police. He can also be seen getting shot by a less-than lethal projectile and coming under pepper ball fire.

Likewise, video shows Maceda smashing the front window of the apartment of the woman who, on a 911 call, had already threatened to shoot him if he tried to enter her home. The video released by Santa Maria police, though, does not contain footage of Officer Erik Hesch fatally shooting Maceda.

At approximately 10:21 p.m., a Santa Maria officer contacted Maceda near a dumpster in the 1000 block of W. Morrison Avenue. Maceda displayed two knives, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.

The officer requested backup. Other officers arrived and told the man more than 20 times to drop the weapons, police said. Maceda refused to do so.

After Maceda approached police, an officer fired a less-than lethal projectile that struck him around his stomach. Maceda then threw a knife, striking a police car and coming close to officers.

The suspect fled to a nearby apartment complex and hid behind a wall on the balcony of a second-story unit. The apartment was occupied by the woman and her 9-year-old daughter.

With the suspect standing outside her door, the woman called 911. In a recording of the 911 call, the woman can be heard saying, “I am in my bathroom, and I have a gun registered to me, so if this guy… like I said, I do have a registered gun, so if he tries to come into my house, I will…”

The dispatcher interjects multiple times, at one point telling the woman, “Ok ma’am, we have officers there. Please don’t fire.”

Officers and a hostage negotiator spoke with Maceda in Spanish for more than 90 minutes. The negotiator repeatedly asked Maceda to set down a knife.

At one point, Maceda dropped a knife on the balcony, video footage shows. Officers then fired pepper ball rounds at him. Maceda responded by throwing objects, including a bicycle and chairs, at officers.

The man picked the knife back up, along with a large red board, which he uses to smash the front window of the apartment. At that point, Officer Hesch shot Maceda. 

Maceda died of a single gunshot wound to the neck and head. Toxicological tests revealed Meceda had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood.

“Officer Hesch reasonably used lethal force to stop Meceda from killing or causing serious bodily injury to the mother and child inside apartment #35,” a district attorney’s office report states. “When he advanced on officers, they deployed less lethal force on him twice — both had little if any effect on him. Then Meceda engaged in a three hour standoff on the landing of an apartment where a mother and child were trapped inside and afraid for their lives. Meceda was armed with knives, and instead of retreating from the landing, he smashed the window of the apartment to gain entry. Any reasonable law enforcement officer would perceive these actions as an immediate lethal threat to the residents in apartment #35 posed by Meceda. Therefore, Officer Hesch’s use of lethal force was justified and he bears no state criminal liability for his actions.” 

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Great work by the SMPD! They did everything they could to de-escalate the situation. In the end, the suspect dictated his own fate. The DA’s office ought to be commended for thoroughly investigating this case and for rendering a proper adjudication.