Fontana police body cam shows officers shooting a fleeing suspect who had a gun

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Four months after Fontana police fatally shot a man wanted for brandishing a gun, Chief Michael Dorsey on Thursday, April 4, publicly released visual and audio recordings and still images that show three officers chasing him apparently carrying a gun through a commercial area before firing upon him.
The release came more than two months after the Southern California News Group filed a California Public Records Act request for the recordings and six days after SCNG published a story noting that Fontana police had provided the public scant details on recent shootings by its officers.

Dorsey had cited legally allowed exemptions to the open-records law out of concern that releasing the recordings and images would jeopardize an investigation.

Officer Steven Reed, a department spokesman, said in an interview on Thursday that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the shooting, recently told Fontana police they could make the information public. The San Bernardino County District’s Attorney’s Office is also investigating.

The name of the man killed in the Dec. 13 shooting, Jose Pena Mejia, had been among the details withheld until Thursday. Fontana police had also declined to say whether the suspect had fired on officers and elaborate on their previous statement that officers fired when the “situation escalated.”

Mejia became a wanted man in November when police identified him as a suspect in a firearm brandishing at a market.

Around 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, an officer pulled over Mejia’s blue pickup near Mango Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Fontana, Dorsey says in a recording posted on the department’s Facebook page, because of a broken tail light. The officer called for backup when he ran a records check and learned that Mejia was wanted.

An officer had Mejia step out of the pickup.

“You have anything illegal on you?” an officer asks as he frisks Mejia, a recording shows.

“I don’t have anything,” Mejia replies.

But the officer felt a gun in the man’s waistband, Dorsey says, and at that moment, Mejia runs off.

“He’s got a gun!” an officer shouts.

“Drop the gun!” and “Stop reaching!” officers yell during the chase.

While the officers are running after Mejia, one can be heard asking that a Taser be poised to deploy.

No civilians could be seen in the video, but the foot pursuit approaches several businesses. Mejia appears in a recording to have an object in his hand.

After several seconds, three officers shoot Mejia. They performed CPR, but he died at a hospital.

“The officers perceived an active threat to their safety,” the chief said.

What exactly prompted them to fire is under investigation, Reed said.

A recording shows a gun that Dorsey says police found on the ground near Mejia.

“Mejia set forth a series of events that forced Fontana police officers to protect both themselves and the community at large”, Dorsey says.

Dorsey adds that Mejia was a documented gang member with convictions for attempted murder, domestic violence and kidnapping.

Family members of Mejia accused the city of repeatedly refusing to release documents and recordings of the shooting to their attorneys, according to a lawsuit they filed in late January.

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