Police chief: Officer shot man who charged police with pole

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man fatally shot by an officer in the San Diego suburb of Escondido was carrying a 2-foot metal pole and had charged at police, the police chief said.

Police Chief Ed Varso said in a video statement posted on YouTube late Wednesday that the officer had backed away and given warnings before opening fire Wednesday morning in downtown Escondido, north of San Diego.

Police were responding to a 911 call that morning that a man was hitting cars with a pole. The man initially ran off after an officer arrived at the scene and at that point he “was not displaying any threatening behavior, and not posing a threat to police or the public,” Varso said.

Shortly after, a second officer spotted the man walking in the street, carrying the pole. As the officer got out of his patrol car, the man charged him “in a threatening manner,” Varso said.

“The officer gave multiple commands to drop the tool, as well as several use-of-force warnings,” Varso said. “The male continued to advance on the officer, who was backing away, and he was ultimately shot.”

The man had been arrested 188 times over the past two decades, including for “violent assaults on police and the public,” parole violations, drug charges, vandalism and other property-related crimes, Varso said.

Mental health professionals also had made multiple attempts to get him help, the chief said.

“Just this year, we have already responded to over 20 calls for service regarding this individual,” Varso said.

Police have not released the man’s name and only described him as a white man. Authorities also have not released the name of the officer involved.

The man received first aid and later died at a hospital.

Varso said the department would share video footage from cameras worn by officers at the scene “as soon as possible” to “provide the public a better understanding of what happened.”

Wednesday’s incident marked the first shooting by Escondido police since June 2020 when an officer opened fire on a man charging him with a crow bar. The man survived and was sentenced last week to four years in prison.

The last fatal shooting by an Escondido police officer was in 2018 when officers responding to a domestic violence call led to a chase that ended in a confrontation with the armed suspect.