DA’s summary provides details in shooting of Sanchez

Courtesy photo Body cam footage contained in the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office report that shows when Monte Vista Police Department officers first responded to the house where Xavier Sanchez would be shot just moments later.

ALAMOSA — Twelfth Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly earlier this week released a summary of events that led up to the killing of Xavier Sanchez, an 18-year-old who was fatally shot on March 21 by two Monte Vista Police Department officers. The MVPD officers were dispatched to his grandmother’s residence on South Broadway in Monte Vista.

Releasing the information is required by statute in cases where officers are not charged in an officer involved shooting.

Kelly’s summary was based on results from an investigation led by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation with assistance from various law enforcement agencies in the Valley.

A review of that investigation resulted in the district attorney deciding not to charge MVPD Sgt. Michael Martinez and Cpl. David Pino for their actions that resulted in Sanchez’s death.

The entirety of Kelly’s summary was based on information contained in CBI’s report.

According to Kelly’s summary, on March 21, at approximately 12:36 p.m., Monte Vista police dispatch received a 911 call from a “male party” who said he thinks he may have killed someone, is “losing control” and there was “blood everywhere.”

Kelly writes “he indicated that police should ‘bring lots of guns’ when they respond. Although he did not identify himself, dispatch determined the call came from a landline inside the residence on South Broadway. While on that call, dispatch received another 911 call from a mental health professional requesting a welfare check on a male identified as Xavier Sanchez at the S. Broadway address.

The mental health professional said Sanchez was “threatening to drink bleach” and is “delusional.” Still on the call with the “male party,” dispatch heard him yelling “get out” but did not hear any other parties on the line.

While still on that same call, dispatch received a third call from a woman inside the house who said the male caller was armed with knives and drinking bleach.

According to Kelly’s summary, Sgt. Martinez told CBI investigators he knew Sanchez before March 21. MVPD had been called to the house where he was living on several “mental health standbys.” Martinez “knew Sanchez to suffer from delusions and paranoia” and MVPD had contacted mental health providers about the teenager “numerous times.”

Kelly’s summary reads that, during lunch earlier that same day, Sanchez’s aunt had come to the police station to discuss concerns about her nephew, telling Martinez “she did not believe (Xavier) posed any risk to other members of the family” but his grandmother had just returned home from long-term physical care to find her house in disarray. She was asking MVPD for assistance. “(She) left after speaking with Sgt. Martinez,” Kelly’s summary reads, “and thanked him for the information he provided her about the other times they had been in contact with Sanchez and the services they had provided him.”

Not long after Sgt. Martinez returned to his office, he received the dispatch call that someone “had killed someone” and recognized the address as Sanchez’s grandmother’s house.

Sgt. Martinez arrived at the house first with Cpl. Pino arriving just moments later. Both officers had been advised by dispatch that the female caller had said “the male was approaching the front door and he has two knives on him.”

Kelly writes that Sgt. Martinez told a CBI investigator that “Cpl. Pino drew his taser device and Sgt. Martinez drew his firearm because of the information they had regarding what was potentially happening in the home.”

With his weapon drawn but to the side where it could not be seen, Sgt. Martinez went to the front door where he spoke briefly with Xavier’s older brother while Cpl. Pino, who was holding his taser device, went to a window to the left of the front door and yelled “Hey!” through the window.

Kelly’s summary is not clear when Pino moved away from the window but states that he was behind and to the left of Martinez when Martinez, who was still at the front door, opened the storm door of the house to go inside.

At that moment, Sanchez jumped through the window where Pino had previously been standing. He had “a cloth over his head with two cut out eye holes,” “a knife in his left hand and a machete in his right hand” and “was violently swinging both the knife and the machete as he ran towards the officers.”

“After jumping through the screen out the window,” Kelly’s summary reads, “Sanchez closed the distance between himself and Sgt. Martinez in less than one second.”

Body cam footage shows that Cpl. Pino immediately fired his Taser but, according to the investigation, “Sanchez continued to run towards them.”

Sgt. Martinez then fired his weapon.

Citing an image from body cam footage included in her summary, Kelly writes, “The knife in Sanchez’s hand was within inches of Sgt. Martinez in less than a second. While Sanchez continued to advance towards the officers, Sgt. Martinez fired six shots.”

Xavier Sanchez then turned toward Cpl. Pino who was walking backward and then tripped and fell. Kelly writes that Sanchez, who had been shot six times, immediately fell right after Pino fell but then got to his feet to approach Martinez.

Cpl. Pino, no longer holding his taser, drew his weapon.

Kelly then quotes Cpl. Pino who told the CBI investigator that “he thought at that moment that “it’s over, I’m safe now.” That moment, Cpl. Pino says, “went away immediately when I saw him get up.” Pino said he “saw the knives raising” and thought that “he’s still trying to kill me.”

“When Cpl. Pino began to fire his weapon,” Kelly writes, “he continued to fire because ‘he saw those knives.’ He does not remember how many times he fired his weapon.”

When Cpl. Pino then approached Sanchez and removed the knives from his hands, Cpl. Pino stated that “it was clear he was deceased.”

Kelly states that, according to CBI’s investigation, Xavier Sanchez was shot 11 times.

Based on the time stamp on images from the officers’ body cams that Kelly included in her summary, the entire incident happened in less than two minutes after Sgt. Martinez first approached the house.

In the Legal Analysis segment of DA Kelly’s summary, she writes, “The question of legal justification is whether a reasonable officer, confronted with the same facts and circumstances, could have concluded that it was necessary to use physical force to defend himself or another and stop the threat that Sanchez presented, and if so, whether that use of force was reasonable and appropriate in response to the threat. In this case, the answer to those questions is yes.

“The investigation revealed that, when Cpl. Pino deployed his taser device, Sanchez was within approximately three feet of Cpl. Pino swinging knives in Cpl. Pino and Sgt. Martinez’s direction. When Sgt. Martinez fired his handgun, Sanchez was within inches of both Cpl. Pino and Sgt. Martinez. When Cpl. Pino fired his weapon from his position on the ground, Sanchez still had the knife and machete in his hand and was rising to his feet in the direction of Sgt. Martinez.

“Sgt. Martinez and Cpl. Pino’s actions were objectively reasonable to prevent the imminent threat of injury to themselves and their respective law enforcement partner. Thus, both Cpl. Pino and Sgt. Martinez were legally justified in using physical force under both C.R.S. § 18-1-707 and C.R.S. § 18-1-704(1).”

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