DA: Lancaster Police Officer Justified in Shooting Knife-Wielding Ricardo Munoz
By the Lancaster Guardian Staff
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that an investigation of a police-involved shooting Sept. 13 in Lancaster city reveals the officer was justified.
Ricardo Munoz, a 27-year-old city man, was killed by a Lancaster city police officer who fired four shots in the 300 block of Laurel Street.
Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said she determined that the officer was clearly justified in firing four shots at Munoz, as Munoz chased him with a large knife – clearly presenting a threat to the officer’s life, according to a press statement by her office.
The firing officer acted to preserve his own safety and the safety of others. Body camera footage from the firing officer was a key piece of evidence in this investigation.
According to the DA’s office, footage shows:
– There was no interaction between Munoz and the officer. The officer simply responded to the 911 dispatch, arrived, and approached the door.
– The officer had no time to speak with Munoz, as he immediately charged the officer with a knife.
– Between four and five seconds elapsed from the time Munoz emerged from a doorway, chasing the officer, to when the officer fired shots.
– Munoz was within approximately 4 to 7 feet of the officer – while continuing to charge at him – when the officer fired.
“The responding officer was immediately confronted with a threat at 306 Laurel Street on the afternoon of September 13,” Adams said. “The officer had no time or opportunity to do anything but run for his life and only resorted to lethal force when he confirmed an imminent threat to his life remained. The officer’s belief that lethal force was necessary to defend himself was reasonable and therefore, the use of force was justified under the law.”
Injuries from the gunshot wounds killed Munoz immediately, according to the forensic pathologist who performed Munoz’s autopsy.
Some other key factors in DA Adams’ determination were, according to the release:
– Munoz responded to the officer’s mere presence on the scene by charging the officer with a knife. There was no interaction or exchange of words between Munoz and the officer, prior to Munoz’s blitz attack on the officer.
– When Munoz suddenly emerged from the doorway of 306 Laurel Street, Munoz clearly held a knife and the officer saw it. Munoz immediately and without warning charged and chased the officer and the officer ran for his life.
– After running a few strides, the officer looked back and saw Munoz was still rapidly pursuing him and was right behind him – with the knife above his head. There is no question that Munoz presented an immediate threat to the officer’s life and that the officer acted to prevent death or serious bodily injury, as permitted by law.
– At the time shots were fired, Munoz was within 4 to 7 feet of the officer.
The time that elapsed from when Munoz appeared in the doorway to the officer firing was a mere 4 seconds. At the scene, police recovered a large fixed-blade, hunting-style knife next to Munoz’s body, which he used in his charge at the officer.
Police responded to the residence after Munoz’s sister placed a 911 call at 4:13 p.m. and requested police assistance due to Munoz being “very aggressive” and attempting to break into his mother’s home, according to the sister.