Clearlake Police Officer Michael Dietrick was justified in shooting and killing a suspect during a burglary investigation March 29, 2016, the Lake County District Attorney’s Office has determined.
The shooting victim, Joseph Louis Melvin, 46, had attacked Dietrick and was beating him on the head with a steel, foot-long flashlight when Dietrick, losing consciousness and fearing for his life, opened fire, District Attorney Don Anderson stated in a report released late Monday afternoon.
“The officer’s fear that he would continue to suffer great bodily harm or death, was reasonable in both his state of mind and in fact,” Anderson stated in the report. “It is therefore my finding that the taking of Joseph Louis Melvin’s life was justifiable homicide.”
The report is based on statements from officers and deputies responding to the scene, medical reports, physical evidence and data recorded by Dietrick’s body camera, which captured audio and partial video of the lethal struggle, Anderson said.
Dietrick had responded to a burglary alarm just after midnight when he encountered Melvin crouched in a bushy area near a Park Street residence. The officer drew his firearm and ordered Melvin to lay on his stomach and stretch out his arms, according to the report. The officer then holstered his gun and attempted to grab Melvin’s left arm, at which time Melvin shoved Dietrick onto one knee. Dietrick drew his Taser and attempted several times to subdue Melvin with it, according to the report.
During the ongoing struggle, Dietrick felt several blows to his head. The officer said he could see Melvin using his full range of motion while swinging the flashlight.
Dietrick was bleeding and becoming lightheaded when he drew his firearm and fired four rounds into Melvin, according to the report. Three bullets from the Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic gun struck Melvin in the chest and one hit him in the side of the neck, the report states, and Melvin fell to the ground. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Melvin had a criminal record that included burglary, auto theft, methamphetamine possession, firearms possession and resisting arrest, according to the report.
At the time of his death, Melvin had a high level of methamphetamine in his system, the report stated, and possessed a loaded .357-caliber Sturm & Ruger pistol wrapped partially in a sock found under his legs. The officer’s body camera recorded an image of the firearm lying on the ground during the fight, the report stated.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 707-462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MendoReporter.