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DA Says Santa Maria Officer-Involved Shooting Justified

Santa Maria police officers were justified in fatally shooting a Santa Maria man following a domestic-violence stabbing in January, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

The District Attorney's Office, which reviews every officer-involved shooting in the county, determined that officers acted legally when they shot Robert Michael Guzman, 49, on Jan. 13 in Santa Maria.

Guzman stabbed his wife in the chest and she had fled to a neighbor’s house with her 10-year-old granddaughter, according to the district attorney's report.

The neighbor, Patty Castro, locked herself in the bathroom and called 9-1-1. Guzman broke the front window and got into the house.

He hit and damaged the bathroom door enough to open it, but left when he saw only Castro was inside, according to the report. 

Guzman's wife, who had him 23 years prior and is identified as Jane Doe in the report, ran out a side door and climbed a fence to another neighbor’s yard while her granddaughter hid in Castro’s house.

Robert Michael Guzman

Officers responded to the domestic-disturbance call on the 1100 block of East Sunset Avenue, and found Guzman inside Castro’s home holding what appeared to be bolt cutters or pruning shears, the report said.

The officers covering the front of the house told Guzman to drop the weapon.

“Instead of complying with the command, Guzman aggressively approached Officer Andrew Brice and deliberately smashed more of the broken window directly in front of where (he) was standing,” the report said.

Guzman left the area and came out of the open garage door with the pruning shears above his head. He was ordered again to drop the weapon, the report said.

“He yelled out a ‘war cry’ and rushed directly at the officers.”

Brice used a beanbag gun and hit Guzman in the chest, which didn’t stop him, and then Officers Rudy Alvara and Paul Santiago fired their long rifles and hit Guzman eight times, according to the autopsy.

In their statements, the officers said they feared for their own lives, their partners’ lives. and the lives of the people still in the house.

Jane Doe was “very angry with the officers for shooting Guzman,” the report said. 

After Guzman was shot, Brice went into the house looking for the granddaughter. Castro had come out through the garage before Guzman did. 

“A little girl wearing pajamas, who was approximately 10 years old, came running to him with her arms outstretched. She was screaming and crying, so Officer Brice picked her up in a bear hug and carried her out of the house to safety,” the report said.

Guzman was declared dead at the scene and a pair of pruning shears were found near him in the garage.

Authorities believe he brought several knives and the pair of shears over to kill his wife. She told police that he had stabbed her and said he was going to kill her, and it was the end for both of them.

Guzman’s wife was taken to Marian Regional Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries, and was later released, according to Santa Maria police Chief Ralph Martin.

He told Noozhawk at the time that police had been called to the couple’s home more than three dozen times in the past 10 years, and neighbors said it was common for the wife to seek shelter from her husband at neighboring homes.

Authorities were called to his house about once a month since he was bipolar, according to his wife.

The couple had apparently been ending their relationship and making arrangements for custody of her grandchildren – from a previous relationship – and finances.

Guzman had a history of driving under the influence and mental health issues, the District Attorney’s Office said.

A doctor at the Center for Pain Management got a restraining order against him in 2008 for being irresponsible with prescription medication, and Guzman had recently graduated from a drug and alcohol recovery program at the Central Coast Rescue Mission.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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