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April 14, 2009 02:53 PM
April 14, 2009 09:28 PM
SALINAS, Calif- Monterey County District Attorney Dean D. Flippo announced today that charges will not be filed against Officers Steven Mattocks and Robert Balaoro for the death of Maria Irma De La Torre, 45, on July 13, 2008.
District Attorney Flippo stated: "After a careful review of the evidence by three experienced prosecutors, all concluded that a jury would be highly unlikely to return a verdict of guilty on any possible homicide charge."
Accroding to the District Attournty, De La Torre's husband and her sister tried to calm De La Torre and keep her inside her home. Shortly after 3 a.m., De La Torre escaped from her home by crawling through a bedroom window.
Two officers were dispatched to the scene as the result of calls made to 911, by family members and by neighbors concerned that a fight was occurring outside her home.
On arriving, Police say that neighbors and family members pointed the officers in the direction of a white van parked in front of her home. De La Torre had locked herself inside her sister's van.
As the officers tried to coax her out of the van, they noticed that De La Torre was bleeding from stabbing herself in the neck with what appeared to be a safety pin.
De La Torre emerged from the passenger side of the van, she moved directly toward Officer Balaoro despite his orders for her to stand still. The officer described her as angry and aggressive.
Police say that while continuing to give orders for her to stay where she was, the officer backed up to the rear of the van with his taser ready to fire. According to police reports he saw something metallic in her right fist which she was raising as though to stab him.
He believed it was either an ice pick or a knife. He called out to Officer Mattocks that she had something sharp. Officer Balaoro and De La Torre were about four to five feet apart with De La Torre continuing to move toward him.Officer Balaoro fired his taser.
At the same instant, Officer Mattocks had moved from the driver side of the van to the right front fender. He also saw De La Torre advancing on Officer Balaoro. He also saw light glint off an object De La Torre held in her right fist and raised as though to stab.
He believed his fellow officer was in danger. Although the officers were wearing vests, those devices do not protect well against sharp instruments suitable for stabbing.
Officer Mattocks at that instant had only his service firearm in his hand and did not believe he could reach De La Torre or deploy another weapon before she would reach Officer Balaoro. He made a decision in that second to fire at her. Two bullets struck Ms. De La Torre in the right lower back, killing her.
Beside her on the ground was a five-inch crochet hook.
A lawsuit filed by de la Torre's family says she was in a state of emotional confusion, when she was tazed, shot, and killed.
Named in the suit are the City of Salinas, former police chief Daniel Ortega and officers Steven Mattocks, and Robert Balaoro.
The suit accuses the defendants of negligence, excessive use of force, the use of deadly force, and failure to properly train officers.