Authorities in Merced County on Thursday said it was unclear when they would be able to release the name of the man killed this week in an officer-involved shooting in Los Banos.
The adult man was shot and killed Wednesday during a confrontation with Los Banos police officers.
The Merced County Coroner’s Office said the man’s family, including next-of-kin, lives in Mexico and investigators hadn’t yet been able to establish contact with them Thursday afternoon.
The man died after being shot a single time by an officer shortly after 12:22 p.m. Wednesday along an area called the Rail Trail near Seventh and G streets in Los Banos, according to police. That section of the Rail Trail is several yards away from the Los Banos Community Center.
Two officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Each has been with the department for more than two years, police said. Their names were not released on Thursday, according to Cmdr. Jason Hedden.
The Los Banos Police Department, Department of Justice and Merced County District Attorney’s Office will jointly investigate the shooting to determine if it was justified, according to Cmdr. Ray Reyna Jr.
The department has 42 sworn officers, according to the latest Merced County Grand Jury report. Hedden acknowledged the department will dip into overtime pay to avoid staffing issues with two officers out for an extended time.
“It’s always a challenge when we don’t have everyone we’re allocated on the street,” he said. “We have officers working extra hours to make sure we’re covered.”
The department has still not returned to full staffing since a previous officer-involved shooting from July 31, 2017, when an officer shot and killed 39-year-old Norberto Nieblas Reyes. That incident in which two officers were also shot was determined to be a justified use of force, according to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
One of the two officers involved in that incident is working in a “light-duty capacity” and the other has not returned to work, police said.
Hedden said the man from Wednesday’s incident was taken to Memorial Hospital Los Banos and first responders planned to have him flown to Modesto by helicopter but he died before leaving Los Banos.
Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee said the shooting happened after two officers located the man and were speaking to him for a short time because police received a report of a man with a gun. The chief said the man acknowledged having a weapon tucked into his “waistline” but did not follow “basic commands” from police, which Brizzee described as placing his hands in the air and getting down onto his knees.
The man made a sudden move to expose the gun and pull it from his pants, police said. After the shooting, police found a “replica gun” painted black in the area.
Wednesday’s shooting also marks the second officer-involved shooting of 2018 in Merced County.
Merced County sheriff’s deputies and a probation officer shot and killed a man March 30 inside a home on Atwater Boulevard in Atwater. The man, later identified by authorities as 42-year-old Timothy Breckenridge, was holding a replica gun and did not drop the object despite numerous orders from the deputies to do so, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office also determined the officers acted appropriately when they opened fire on Breckenridge.