DUBLIN, Calif. (AP) – A California police officer who shot killed a fellow officer in January accidentally mistook him for an armed assailant, prosecutors said in a report released on Friday and reported by news outlets.
Bay Area Rapid Transit Detective Michael Maes shot BART police Sgt. Tom Smith on Jan. 21 as the two searched an apartment in Dublin for stolen items.
But Alameda County Deputy District Attorney John Creighton wrote in the report that Maes opened fire after he saw a shadowy figure with an upraised firearm suddenly come out of a dark walk-in closet area. Creighton said Smith’s upraised arm could have obscured the identifying markings on the front of his bullet-proof vest.
Authorities had also investigated the possibility that Maes’ weapon discharged accidentally.
Creighton said there was insufficient evidence to charge Maes with a crime.
Smith was shot while authorities searched an apartment in Dublin for a smartphone, laptop bag and related items stolen during a recent armed holdup at a train station in Oakland. Police believe the suspect – identified as John Henry Lee, 20 – committed several robberies on BART property.
BART police have said Smith was in plainclothes, but he and the other officers conducting the search were wearing bullet-proof vests.
The bullet went through a part of Smith’s chest that was not covered by the vest, authorities have said.
BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said on Friday the District Attorney’s report will allow his office to complete its own internal investigation of the shooting.
“I’ve shared the DA’s report with all BART Police personnel and asked that each person read and consider all the information offered by the outside investigators regarding what they felt transpired before this tragedy occurred,” he said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.