Five Tucson police officers have been cleared by the County Attorney’s Office in the April shooting death of a bank robber.
Santiago Avila, 35, a fugitive from California, was shot and killed April 17 outside the Wells Fargo bank at 145 E. 22nd St. near South Sixth Avenue.
A letter of finding released by the Pima County Attorney’s Office on Tuesday stated the officers were justified in firing at Avila.
The officers involved were Jeff Dellinger, a 23-year veteran; Pablo Camargo, a 16-year veteran; Randolph Lucero, a 15-year veteran; Oscar Ramos, a 13-year veteran; and Daniel Martinez, a seven-year veteran.
The county attorney’s chief criminal deputy, Kellie Johnson, investigated he shooting.
“When interviewed, each of the five officers that fired indicated that while they were not personally threatened by Mr. Avila while he was in the parking lot, they all feared for the safety and well-being of the people inside the bank,” Johnson wrote in her letter.
Arizona law permits enforcement personnel to use deadly force “when an officer believes such force is necessary to protect third parties against another’s imminent use of deadly force,” the letter stated.
Avila walked into the bank, handed a teller a backpack and a note demanding money and threatening harm. He then took a seat and waited for the teller to return with money, Johnson said.
The teller walked to the back of the bank to alert employees and, while one employee hit the “panic alarm” to alert police , the manager ushered people to the back of the bank to shield them from Avila.
“Mr. Avila apparently saw the police cars arrive through the front window,” Johnson said. “He took a handgun out of the waistband area of his pants. The bank manager yelled for everyone to get down.”
Avila left the bank, went to an SUV he had parked in front and took out a tray of ammunition, Johnson said.
The manager locked the door.
Officers ordered Avila to drop the gun, but he refused and shouted an expletive before walking back toward the bank entrance, Johnson said. That’s when the officers fired.
Avila was wanted in California for assaulting a law enforcement officer.