Fontana Police Officer Found Justified in One of Two Fatal Shootings

FONTANA – Fontana Police Officer, Shawn Michels, who was involved in two fatal officer-involved shootings in a 4-month period was cleared of the November 20, 2015, incident.

The incident on November 20, 2015, based on numerous witness statements along with corroborating evidence was an incident involving a man struggling to cope with the recent loss of his wife. Based on the intense investigation using all the evidence available to them, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office ruled the shooting justified.

Prior to the incident, on November 19, 2015, Martin Arturo Rivera, 50, gave a neighbor all of his personal documents in a briefcase for safekeeping. She noticed that Rivera was depressed and at the time she noticed that he was armed with a revolver. She told authorities that he told her that his late wife was “waiting for him at the end of the tunnel” and they were going to get married. He also told her that he would not be around the next day.

The following day, Officer Michels responded to a disturbing the peace call on Tangelo Avenue where Rivera was ringing the doorbell and threatening to hurt someone. As he responded, dispatchers alerted Michels that Rivera had a prior history of weapons. Numerous times while approaching, Michels ordered Rivera to show his hands, but he failed to comply. Michels repeatedly, according to witness statements, told Rivera to show his hands and move toward Officer Michels. Eventually, Rivera reached down and pulled his shirt up. Michels saw the wooden handle of a gun peeking out of his pocket. Again, Michels ordered him to show his hands and Rivera again refused then reached down apparently attempting to take the loaded revolver out of his pocket.

Officer Michels out of fear for his own and the safety of others in close proximity grabbed his gun and fired four shots at Rivera. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office officials said that a reasonable officer in the same position as Officer Michels he/she would have made the same decision to use deadly force to avoid being shot or killed.

On March 16, 2016, just months later Officer Michels was off duty at his Apple Valley home when he shot and killed 25-year-old Apple Valley resident, Vincent Avila Jr. Sheriff’s officials said that Avila was shot during an attempted robbery at the home in the 20000 block of Ochoa Road in the Town of Apple Valley. Officer Michels told Avila to put his hands down, and according to Sheriff’s officials he failed to comply leading to his shooting death. Avila sustained wounds to his upper torso and was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The details surrounding the March 16th incident are not completely clear, as the details from scanner traffic recordings of the dispatcher repeating what Officer Michels reported conflicted with the Sheriff’s news release. A 24/7 Headline News reporter requested information from San Bernardino District Attorney officials, but they are yet to respond to the request for information.

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