Suspects killed by Sonoma County law enforcement in 2007
Feb. 23: Haki Thurston, an Oakland homicide suspect, shot Feb. 23 by Santa Rosa police as he fled a Cleveland Avenue motel where officers were helping Oakland police apprehend him.
March 12: Jeremiah Chass, 16, shot by sheriff's deputies as they struggled to disarm him during a confrontation in the family's van outside their Sebastopol home. Chass was having a mental episode.
April 9: Richard DeSantis, a 30-year-old unarmed, bipolar man, shot at his Roseland house by Santa Rosa police after his wife called 911 to report he was firing a gun in their home.
May 4: Luis Felipe Sanchez, suspected of selling drugs and violating parole, shot after firing on a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy during a May 4 stakeout in Rohnert Park.
Police officers were justified in shooting an unarmed Oakland homicide suspect earlier this year, the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office said Friday.
The four SWAT officers who shot Haki Thurston 13 times as he fled from the Comfort Inn on Feb. 23 believed he was armed and dangerous and an imminent threat to their safety, District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said in a statement.
"After reviewing all the evidence and the totality of the circumstances," Passalacqua concluced that "the involved police officers acted lawfully."
The Thurston case is the first review of an officer-involved shooting to be completed this year. Four people were killed in confrontations with law enforcement officers in Sonoma County in 2007.
One advocate of stronger civilian oversight of the county's law enforcement agencies said she was not surprised by the findings.
"My goodness, let me sit down and fan myself. I'm so surprised," said Mary Moore, a Camp Meeker resident who helped organize a coalition of groups called Advocates for Police Accountability. "The whole thing is a joke. They always find it justified."
Santa Rosa police officers, including members of its SWAT team, went to the Comfort Inn on Cleveland Avenue in February to help Oakland police apprehend Haki Kuasi Gaidi Thurston.
The 22-year-old Oakland resident was a suspect in the murder of his cousin, 26-year-old Hodari Benson.
Oakland detectives had Thurston under surveillance at the hotel, where he was staying with a woman. They asked for help from Santa Rosa's SWAT team because they believed he was armed and unlikely to cooperate.
After leaving his hotel room, Thurston entered the parking lot, where officers spotted him and ordered him to the ground. Instead, Thurston ran east toward a chain-link fence separating the parking lot from a wooded area and Highway 101.
He ignored their repeated demands to stop. He also reached toward his waistband, which officers interpreted as reaching for a weapon, according to the District Attorney's Office.
"Each officer believed Thurston was armed, based on information previously provided to them," the statement said. "They believed that he was heading for the cover of the trees to engage them in a shootout. They believed that Thur-ston posed an imminent risk of great bodily harm or death."
Police had a significant amount of information about Thurston and the danger he posed, including the fact that no pistol had been recovered from the scene of his cousin's murder, and that Thurston was a suspect in a theft of guns, said Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook.