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California Department of Justice Releases Report on Officer-Involved Shooting of Travis Tarrants

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506), today released a report on Travis Tarrants' death from an officer-involved shooting in Fontana, California, on April 7, 2022, involving the Fontana Police Department (FPD). The report is part of the California Department of Justice's (DOJ) ongoing efforts to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement practices. The report provides a detailed analysis of the incident and outlines DOJ's findings. After a thorough investigation, DOJ concluded that criminal charges were not appropriate in this case. However, DOJ recognizes the important lessons to be learned from this incident. As required by AB 1506, the Attorney General has issued specific policy and practice recommendations related to the incident.

"The California Department of Justice remains steadfast in our commitment to working together with all law enforcement partners to ensure an unbiased, transparent, and accountable legal system for every resident of California," said Attorney General Bonta. “AB 1506 is a critical transparency and accountability tool, and our hope for this report is to provide some understanding and aid in advancing towards a safer California for all. Loss of life is always a tragedy. We acknowledge that this incident posed challenges for all parties involved, including Mr. Tarrants' family, law enforcement, and the community.” 

On April 7, 2022, FPD officers arrived on scene to a bank after receiving multiple calls stating there was a man who was robbing the bank armed with a gun. Mr. Tarrants was shot after he pointed a gun at officers. The gun was later found to be a modified airsoft gun. Under AB 1506, which requires DOJ to investigate all incidents of officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state, DOJ conducted a thorough investigation into this incident and concluded that the evidence does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the deputy involved acted without the intent to defend himself and others from what he reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the deputy. As such, no further action will be taken in this case.  

As part of its investigation, DOJ has identified several policy recommendations that it believes will help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. These recommendations include:

1. COMMAND AND CONTROL

Though FPD may have general orders, trainings, or practices that outline the responsibilities of the first responding officer or supervisor at a scene, FPD should develop a formal policy that provides guidance related to: (1) how an officer should establish command and control of a scene, (2) what having command and control of the scene requires, (3) how and under what circumstances that command and control should be communicated to the other officers at the scene, and (4) how and under what circumstances command and control may or should be transferred to a supervisor or another officer at the scene.

2. DE-ESCALATION

It is recommended that FPD revise its Use of Force de-escalation policy to require de-escalation to include a non-exhaustive list of specific de-escalation tactics and techniques that an officer can employ, when feasible under the circumstances, including:

• Verbal persuasion.

• Warnings and advisements.

• The use of other resources, such as crisis intervention teams.

• Avoiding language or behavior that would escalate the stress or tension in the environment.

• Once the policy is established, provide additional training for all staff on these policies. 

3. SITUATIONAL/POSITIONAL AWARENESS

FPD should establish a specific policy regarding situational and positional awareness of officers when repositioning and during an encounter, particularly encounters with subjects who are thought to be armed.  

4. BODY WORN CAMERAS

Because FPD’s current policy appears to have conflicting provisions, it is recommended that FPD revise its policy to ensure it does not contain inconsistent direction and instead provides clear guidelines to the officers on when they should activate their body worn cameras (BWC). The BWC policy should clearly delineate the circumstances, if any, by which officers may mute their BWC audio or video, and the policy should include an instruction that officers explicitly define any policy or order requiring them to mute their audio or video on their BWC before muting. 

5. WEBSITE POSTING OF AGENCY POLICIES

It is recommended that FPD ensure the policies in its manual are updated to include the most recent versions of the policies, and that it “conspicuously post” the manual on its website, as required by law.

A copy of the report can be found here.