A San Diego police officer who fatally shot an assault suspect who allegedly advanced on the lawman while swinging a metal chain has been cleared of criminal liability, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office announced today.
Officer Corey Pitts, a two-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, shot 48-year-old Vaughn Harrison Denham in Southcrest last Aug. 8. According to the D.A.'s review, which is summarized in a letter sent to SDPD Chief David Nisleit, several witnesses stated that Denham attacked another man with a machete, striking the victim in the head and causing ``severe injuries.'' He also swung at the victim with a 4-foot long metal chain, which he later wielded at Pitts, according to prosecutors.
When Pitts arrived on scene at 5:11 p.m., Denham ran to the officer's patrol vehicle and struck the car with the chain. Pitts then got out of the vehicle and ordered Denham to drop the chain, but Denham proceeded toward the officer, according to the D.A.'s account.
Pitts then Tased Denham, but it appeared to have no effect, leading the officer to retreat for ``a block and a half'' before eventually firing two rounds from his gun at Denham in the area of Boston Avenue and South 40th Street, according to the letter signed by District Attorney Summer Stephan.
Denham died in a hospital at around 7:45 p.m. Pitts was not injured.
An autopsy showed Denham had four gunshot wounds, but two of those may have been reentry wounds, according to the D.A.'s letter, which also says toxicology results showed PCP, marijuana and methamphetamine in his system.
The review concluded that ``Pitts fired at Denham in his own defense. He therefore bears no state criminal liability for his actions.''