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BWC footage released in fatal OIS of man who shot Calif. officer in head

“It’s very frustrating ... a guy who’s got a repeated violent history continually getting out to only commit more violence,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. “We ... need to do better in protecting the community”

Dramatic video shows suspect shooting San Diego police sergeant in head at close range

The officers, all who had less than two years of experience with the department, assisted their sergeant until paramedics arrived. Although Elliott was in critical condition, he was speaking on the way to the hospital.

San Diego Police Department

By Lyndsay Winkley
The San Diego Union-Tribune

Moments after Curtis Harris charged out of the Ralph’s grocery store in 4S Ranch, he started shooting.

San Diego police had just confronted the 46-year-old inside. Officers needed to serve him with an emergency restraining order in a domestic violence incident, and they suspected he’d stolen a car they’d located in the store’s parking lot. Harris was also known to carry a gun.

As soon as officers called his name, Harris bolted. In the parking lot, Sgt. Anthony Elliott saw him and gave chase, the two men shimmying between long rows of shopping carts. Harris vaulted a short wall at the end of the cart corral and turned back toward Elliott, gun in hand. The image is clear on the camera the sergeant wore, he was so close on Harris’ heel.

The scene that unfolded late Dec. 7 was made public Monday in dramatic camera footage released by the Police Department.

Harris can be seen opening fire, the sergeant’s hands falling from the nearby wall as the gun goes off. Three San Diego officers returned fire, killing Harris.

“Is everyone OK?” an officer can be heard asking after the shootout.

Seconds later, another officer: “Where’s sarge?”

They found him in the cart corral. He’d been shot in the head.

Elliott survived the close-range shooting, but he remains in a San Diego hospital and likely will not be home for Christmas, police officials said Monday.

He’s the third San Diego police officer to be shot in the last 12 months.

San Diego police Chief David Nisleit, who said he tries to keep in touch with Elliott’s family daily, said footage of the incident was one of the most violent he had witnessed in his career.

“They’re all violent, but this was a different level,” the chief said.

Click below to see full video.

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San Diego Police Department

The department released video of the shooting under AB 748, passed in 2018, which requires police agencies to release body-camera footage within 45 days of any encounter when an officer fires a gun or uses force that leads to great bodily injury or death.

“I’ve probably looked at north of 70 officer-involved shootings over my career from homicide, then patrol and now as chief, and this one, I think, is tops as far as just up close and violent,” the chief said.

The incident began about 10 p.m. when a woman called 911 to report the location of her stolen car. The vehicle had been taken during a domestic violence fight, the woman told dispatchers.

An emergency court order was filed after the encounter, which happened on Dec. 4 . Signed by a judge, the document ordered Harris to stay away from the woman and others, and to move out of the home he and the woman shared.

According to the order, there had been other domestic violence incidents, some reported, some not.

The woman called police after learning the stolen vehicle was at a nearby Ralph’s.

“And he has a gun on him so I can’t just go get the vehicle probably without getting shot,” the woman told dispatchers.

Police identified Harris as a potential suspect. Although the Emergency Protective Order had been filed against him, it still needed to be served.

Officers found the vehicle in the parking lot and went looking for Harris in the grocery store. As soon as officers called out to him, Harris ran.

Elliott was the first officer to chase after Harris once he exited the store.

“Come here, hey! We gotta serve you with something, buddy,” Elliott can be heard saying on the video.

Harris opened fire seconds later.

Harris then turned and shot again at other officers giving chase. Three officers shot back. Police used a ballistic shield to approach Harris, whose gun was still in his hand after he was shot. Officers removed the weapon — a .40-caliber handgun, placed him in handcuffs and provided medical aid, police officials wrote in the video release.

He was later taken to a hospital where he died.

The officers, all who had less than two years of experience with the department, assisted their sergeant until paramedics arrived. Although Elliott was in critical condition, he was speaking and talking on the way to the hospital.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California is aiming to raise $50,000 to support the injured officer during his recovery, according to a fundraising page. So far, nearly $33,000 has been raised.

The page includes a letter from Elliott’s wife, Laura, who describes her husband as a dedicated husband and father to two boys — a 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old.

“The biggest sacrifice someone could give is to place themselves in immediate danger daily to help serve and protect those who can’t protect themselves,” Laura Elliott wrote. “People you don’t even know. There are not many people who sign up for that and continue to show up against all odds.”

The department’s Wellness Unit is also tending to the other officers — Tanarat Crowe, Darrion Talalele and Trevor Wright — involved in the shooting.

San Diego officers have faced more gun threats in 2023 than the previous two years combined, according to data maintained by the department’s homicide unit.

Since January, two officers have been shot, five officers have been shot at and three officers have been threatened with firearms. And in August, a suspect fatally shot a 4-year-old police dog named Sir.

Nisleit expressed frustration over the trend. Like he has after other shootings, the chief took aim at the state’s criminal justice system for taking, in his approximation, a soft stance on repeat offenders who too often wind up in altercations with officers.

“It’s very frustrating for me to see a guy who’s got a repeated violent history continually getting out to only commit more violence,” Nisleit said. “We, as a society, the state, this country, need to do better in protecting the community from people who repeatedly do violence.”

Harris’ criminal record includes a 2012 incident in which he punched a woman in the face, knocking her out. After she fell, he poured beer on her and urinated her, court documents say.

A San Diego Superior Court jury convicted him of charges including assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury and battery causing serious injury. He was sentenced in September 2012 to 14 years in prison.

It’s unclear how many years he served before he was released.

The shooting is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department per a countywide agreement that ensures no agency investigates its own police shootings.

©2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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