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I-Team looks into how local officer-involved shootings are investigated

The death this year of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police and other high profile cases are calling attention to police shootings all over the country and here at home.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department this week released video of a deadly deputy involved shooting that happened in July of 2019 outside the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.

Full Story: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department releases footage of July 2019 deputy-involved shooting

35-year old Jason Allen Harris is seen in the video stepping toward one of the deputies which resulted in a shooting.

Sheriff Chad Bianco released a video statement with the video.

"In this incident, the Riverside County Sheriff's will handle the investigation of the original call, Mr. Harris' actions, and the deputy involved shooting," Bianco says.

The district attorney's office has already reviewed the case and we've learned that the deputies have been cleared of criminal liability.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin says he's looking at these cases very carefully.

"It's something I've tried really hard to put passions aside and listen and really think about the facts of what's happened across our country."

How often do these cases result in charges?

Final determination letters show that the answer is very rarely.

Dozens of them have been issued finding no evidence of criminal liability since 2015 in Riverside County.

"Since I've been the district attorney, we have filed criminal charges on a homicide on one police officer for an officer involved shooting in Riverside County and that was a sheriff's deputy," Hestrin says.

That one case was in the Coachella Valley.

Former Deputy Oscar Rodriguez is awaiting trial in the shooting death of Luis Carlos Morin, Jr. back in January of 2014.

The deputy had said he was serving two felony arrest warrants.

In 2017, Hestrin held a news conference to announce that new evidence showed it was something very different.

"He was taking care of a personal thing that he was trying to do and this was a love triangle, that's what led to the shooting,"

ACLU staff attorney Eva Bitran is raising questions.

"We think there have been more problematic cases that haven't come to fruition," Bitran says.

She is encouraged by a new task force in Riverside County to make sure no agency investigates its own.

That task force is being headed by Palm Springs Chief of Police Brian Reyes.

"What this did, is brought all the police agencies and the sheriff in line throughout the county," Reyes says.

Under the new task force, the sheriff won't be taking the lead role in the investigations involving its own department.

There's also a move to release more video of these cases sooner.

"You need to be able to release it all, all the time. If it's a gray area, release it," Reyes says.

The district attorney will also be adding another element to his review of these cases with a citizen advisory board.

The ACLU will be watching.

"Really, the devil is in the details," Bitran says.

The murder case against former Deputy Oscar Rodriguez continues in the courts.

Rodriguez is requesting a dismissal.

A hearing is scheduled for December 15th.

Rodriguez was charged after new evidence surfaced in a civil case that Riverside County settled for nearly $7 million.

Riverside county has settled seven cases over the past six years for a total of just over $9.4 million.

I-Team / Investigative / News Headlines / Top Stories

John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.


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