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District Attorney Rules Santa Maria Police Justified In Fatally Shooting Stabbing Suspect

The June 5 fatal shooting of a Santa Maria man who said he had stabbed his wife and claimed he had loaded weapons was justified since police officers feared for their safety, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Tuesday. 

The District Attorney’s Office released the findings of the investigation into the circumstances leading up to death of Jesus Gomez Quezada.

The report noted the District Attorney ruled the the shooting was “justifiable homicide” under the California Penal Code. 

“The circumstances created a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury in the minds of both Detective (Nathan) Totorica and Officer (Raymon) Easter,” Dudley said, adding she concluded the officers “acted reasonably” in using deadly force. 

Quezada, 50, called police at 9:36 p.m. to say he had used a big knife to stab his wife, Teresa Meza, 41, multiple times in the stomach and didn’t know whether she was still alive.

“He said he has a loaded handgun and he will use them if he has to,” the DA Office investigative report noted.

“He said if he comes out of the house he is coming out with guns. Quezada said he would shoot anyone who walked by, including citizens.”

Two minutes later, dispatchers received a call from Quezada’s brother-in-law who said the man had called to say “goodbye.”

Detective Felix Diaz, a crisis negotiator, talked to Quezada who admitted stabbing his wife three or four times and told the police officer, “Do your job as a cop if I come outside with gun.”

Another officer arrived at the residence in the 300 block of West Williams Street with the agency’s armored vehicle with bulletproof glass, called Peacekeeper, to shield police as they moved closer to the suspect, according to the report. 

When the suspect came out of the house with what appeared to be a rifle and a handgun, Totorica fired a 40-millimeter less-than-lethal round at Quezada but missed.

Quezada raised the rifle, prompting Easter and Totorica to fire their AR-15 rifles, striking the suspect who fell to the ground, according to the DA investigation.

Other officers entered the residence and found Quezada’s wife on the bedroom floor, with her body in full rigor mortis. An autopsy later determined she had been stabbed 14 times, Dudley said. 

Civilian witnesses reported hearing four or five gunshots. 

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department detectives investigated the officer-involved shooting and reported seven rounds had been fired with seven points of impact identified.

 An autopsy determined Quezada has been struck by two bullets in his chest and abdomen with a grazing bullet wound to his upper thigh. The others struck a nearby building.

Sheriff’s Detective Matthew Fenske found a long gun with a wooden stock on the ground near medical supplies and identified the weapon as 5.0mm pellet gun with a metal sight. A bullet hole and fragment were found in the side of the gun barrel.

What appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun also was found nearby, the report noted.

“Upon closer inspection, it was identified as an imitation firearm or BB gun,” the DA’s report said.

“Detective Fenske noted that both the pellet gun and imitation firearm appeared initially indistinguishable from a real firearm, and the handgun did not have a red tip or orange blaze markings readily visible.”

Santa Maria police said they did not have any prior calls for service at the residence involving Quezada or Meza.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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