San Diego, CA – The San Diego police officer who fatally shot a man who charged at him while swinging four-foot chain acted in self-defense and will not be held liable for the suspect’s death (video below).
Toxicology results indicated that Vaughn Denham, 48, was under the influence of methamphetamine, cannabinoids, and PCP when he allegedly attacked another person with a machete on Aug. 8, 2018, San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephens said, according to KGTV.
Denham carried out the attack during an argument over a dog chain, resulting in San Diego Police Officer Corey Pitts being dispatched to the scene.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Pitts bailed out of his patrol car as Denham advanced on him while swinging the chain.
“Drop that now! Drop the chain!” Officer Pitts yelled, as he backed away from his shirtless attacker.
Denham struck the patrol vehicle with the chain, at which point Officer Pitts deployed his Taser.
“Taser missed,” he said frantically over the radio, while Denham charged towards him.
He drew his duty weapon and ordered the suspect to get on the ground, but Denham continued his advance, bodycam footage showed.
“He’s approaching me with the chain,” the officer updated over the radio.
“You better get down now, or I’m going to shoot you!” he warned Denham.
The frantic officer continued to issue commands as he backed away for over a block, but the suspect walked steadily towards him in the middle of the street, intermittently swinging the chain.
Officer Pitts ultimately fired two rounds, and Denham collapsed to the ground as additional patrol units screeched up behind him.
Despite his wounds, Denham continued to fight with police as they took him into custody, the Times of San Diego reported.
He was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.
"Based on these circumstances, Pitts fired at Denham in his own defense," the district attorney’s office said, according to KGTV. "He therefore bears no state criminal liability for his actions."
The 57-year-old man who Denham attacked with the machete was taken to a trauma center with non-life threatening injuries, according to the Times of San Diego.
Retired San Diego Police SWAT Commander Ray Shay said that the case was a “classic suicide by cop,” KNSD reported.
He praised Officer Pitts’ handling of the incident, and said he had no choice but to shoot his attacker.
“Keep in mind there’s a big threat there, muscular man, long chain, and he keeps trying to close the gap,” said Commander Shay, a former lethal force instructor. “This officer showed great restraint backing up for that long. I mean, he walked back a block and a half. That officer did a great job.”
The San Diego Police Department’s internal investigation into the officer-involved shooting is ongoing, but Officer Pitts has returned to regular patrol, KNSD reported.
You can watch bodycam footage of Officer Pitts’ encounter with the chain-wielding attacker in the video below. WARNING - Graphic Content: