Updated at 5:27 p.m. April 27, 2012
Six La Mesa police officers who opened fire on a drunken Andrew Yacko last August, killing him in the middle of Pine Street, have been exonerated after a District Attorney’s Office investigation.
Bonnie Dumanis, the district attorney running for San Diego mayor, signed a letter to La Mesa Police Chief Ed Aceves that noted Yacko threatened officers with a Winchester 12-gauge pump shotgun.
And an autopsy revealed that Yacko, 35, who died from multiple gunshot wounds, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent. For drivers, a level of 0.08 percent is considered legally drunk.
“Based on these circumstances, it is readily apparent that Officers Tim Purdy, Scott Hildebrand, Scott Dreyer, Marcus Patrick, Rudolfo Salazar and Scott Wulfing all fired in self-defense as well as in defense of one another,” Dumanis said in a letter dated April 17 (attached). “They therefore bear no criminal liability for their actions.”
The Dumanis letter also revealed that on April 30, 2011—3 1/2 months before Yacko’s death, sheriff's deputies responded to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon in a Jamul parking lot.
“The deputies eventually learned Mr. Yacko had been involved in an argument with his wife and threatened to commit suicide,” the letter said. “At one point, Mr. Yacko had fired several shots from a shotgun and a pistol into his own truck.”
Yacko was arrested and admitted firing his guns at his truck, Dumanis said.
“He said he was upset because his wife was seeing someone else,” she said in the letter. “Deputies seized the shotgun and pistol as evidence and later conducted a search of Mr. Yacko’s home. They found a number of other guns that they impounded for safekeeping purposes.”
Yacko underwent a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation at a county facility and later was booked into county jail for discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and shooting at an unoccupied vehicle.
On May 17, Yacko pleaded guilty in the Jamul case, and on July 12, he was sentenced to three years of probation and 110 days in county jail with credit for 110 days served. A 365-day jail term was stayed.
Yacko was released from jail later that night.
At 11:18 on a Friday night in mid-August, neighbors called 911 after hearing a woman screaming and seeing Yacko “armed with and pointing a gun as he walked in the street,” Dumanis wrote.
One neighbor told police: “He has his gun in his hand. He’s pointing it.... He’s yelling at the people next door .... He just got out of prison.”
Another neighbor reported, “He’s coming to my door. I can see the gun.”
All six officers told DA investigators that they saw Yacko rack the shotgun (a step before firing), the letter said.
Several of the officers repeatedly ordered Yacko to drop the gun, but he refused and racked, raised and pointed the shotgun at the officers.
“The officers all stated they opened fire because they thought Mr. Yacko was going to fire the shotgun at them or their fellow officers,” Dumanis said.
All six officers fired their weapons, which included Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistols and .223-caliber rifles.
“Mr. Yacko was struck by the gunfire and died at the scene,” she wrote.
The first public notice that Dumanis had made her decision was Friday on her Officer-Involved Shooting page.
“I had my web people post today,” said Steve Walker, communications director for the District Attorney’s Office.
Four days after Yacko died, a Facebook memorial page was created, listing a Chase Bank account for funeral donations.
“Andrew's life was taken from us way too soon,” said the Facebook description. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this unfortunate event. He has left behind a wife and five children, which includes a very young son and daughter.”