ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — California police shot and killed a shirtless, knife-wielding man whom they had forced out of his locked minivan with a firehose after witnessing him pouring gasoline on a rag and lighting a cigarette, authorities said.
“We felt this guy was going to light himself on fire or blow the car up,” Orange police Lt. Fred Lopez said Monday, the day after officers fatally shot 33-year-old Michael Anthony Perez.
Parts of the strange-then-violent standoff were captured on close-up, professionally shot video aired by KABC-TV, though Perez is partially blocked from view by another vehicle.
The video shows the water spraying as police use batons to break the van’s windows then shows Perez climbing out head-first through the driver’s side window. He then struggled with officers.
No weapon is seen but a voice is heard yelling “knife” moments before two shots rang out.
A non-lethal round of rubber projectiles was ineffective so officers used lethal force, Lopez said.
Perez was hit by a single bullet and pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.
“We try to use less lethal rounds, but it is not always possible,” Lopez said.
Police said Perez had a criminal record that included weapons and drugs violations. Online court listings show convictions for charges including drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Thorsen said an active warrant was out in connection with the minivan.
The man was pulled over for a broken tail light and the incident played out over a 20- to 30-minute span near a 24-hour laundry and other businesses in a surrounding strip mall, police said.
“I had never seen anything like that,” said Fabian Huerta, who watched with surprise as police started spraying water into the van. “I thought he was going to surrender.”
Huerta, who works cleaning businesses at the strip mall, said in Spanish that he saw an officer grab the suspect by the hand before he heard gunshots.
The shooting was being investigated by the Orange County district attorney’s office.