Video: Calif. officer survives close call after suspect's weapon malfunctions
The suspect held up a handgun to Officer Brian Keller's face at close range; a click can be heard in the video as the gun jams
By Caleb Lunetta
The San Diego Union-Tribune
LA MESA, Calif. — La Mesa police released video footage Thursday of an officer fatally shooting a 41-year-old man who authorities said tried to fire a hangun at the officer but the weapon jammed, investigators said.
Officer Brian Heller shot Jason Hampton, 41, on Aug. 6 in a condominium complex parking lot on University Avenue near La Mesa Boulevard. Heller was one of two police officers who had gone to the complex that afternoon to arrest Hampton on a felony warrant for burglary.
In the edited video, released Thursday, La Mesa Police Department officials describe the incident from the officers' point of view, and provide footage from body cameras worn by Heller and the second officer,
The footage shows Heller as he approaches Hampton, who is standing behind the open door of a blue pickup.
As the officer approaches he asks: "Are you Jason?"
"No," the man, later identified as Hampton, replies.
Heller is standing at the front end of the truck and asks if the man is "Jason" again.
The video shows Hampton pulling out a 9mm handgun and — through a crack between the open door and windshield — aiming it at the officer.
A click can be heard in the video. Investigators said the sound was the gun jamming as Hampton attempted to load the gun and fire on the officers. The gun does not go off.
In the video, Heller can be seen ducking momentarily before pulling his own handgun. The officer fires multiple rounds as Hampton runs behind a row of cars.
Hampton then runs along the outside wall of the apartment complex and down a flight of stairs.
The other officer follows the suspect along the apartment wall. He does not fire his gun.
Heller keeps his weapon trained on Hampton and continues to fire.
In the video, Hampton disappears from view momentarily, and the shooting stops. He then runs back into view and runs toward the street.
Police said Hampton had been trying to clear the jammed round from his gun while running away. A slowed down portion of the video shows him slightly turning toward the officers while continuing to run toward the street with a gun in his hand.
The officer shoots four more times, the video shows.
Hampton falls to the ground.
"Are you all right," the second officer asks Heller.
"I don't know," Heller says. "Check me, bro, check me."
Heller calls for paramedics, and the other officer checks him for gunshot wounds.
The officers were not injured. Police said Hampton died before he could be taken to a hospital.
During the shooting, one of Heller's rounds hit a passing vehicle. The driver wasn't injured, police said. Another round hit a building.
Heller has been with the La Mesa Police Department for six years and works patrol, police said. Per the department's policy, he's been placed on leave while the shooting is investigated, police said.
The San Diego Police Department is investigating the shooting per a countywide protocol that ensures agencies don't investigate shootings involving their own officers. Once the department completes its investigation, it will be forwarded to the county District Attorney's Office, which will determine whether the officer bears any criminal liability.
The La Mesa Police Department will also investigate the shooting, as will a police auditor from La Mesa's Community Police Oversight Board.