Prosecutor's office reviewing sheriff, police shootings

    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The new Kern County District Attorney's Office reviews of officer-involved shootings in the Bakersfield Police and Kern County Sheriff's departments are underway.Three incidents have happened since new agreements put the process in place as of July 13. The results of the D.A. review of a shooting in Standard Park are expected soon, and the others will follow.On Thursday, the sheriff's department announced their administrative review found an officer-involved shooting near Inyokern was "within policy." That's the incident at the end of the long manhunt, where two deputies approached 34-year-old Benjamin Ashley. Both officers shot and killed him. Now, the D.A.'s office will also look at the department's investigation reports and issue a second review."We're looking to see whether or not there's any criminal charges appropriate for the case," Assistant D.A. Scott Spielman said. "We're looking to see that -- under the law -- was it justified?"The D.A.'s office has reviewed officer-involved cases for the smaller law agencies in the county, doing both the investigation and review. The new agreements reached in July apply to BPD and the sheriff's office. The D.A.'s office will review all officer shootings that result in death or injury, and uses of force that result in death, including in-custody deaths.Spielman said his office may ask a department for more investigation, or the D.A. may have their officers do more investigation themselves.Then the District Attorney and several senior attorneys in the department will review the reports and reach a finding. Were the officer's actions justified or not? Did an officer's actions violate the law? The attorneys look at the facts of the incident."Was there a threat of significant danger?" he said. "Something that could cause substantial physical injury or death to a person, that warranted the use of deadly force?"Spielman says the office will then release their finding along with a summary of the laws that apply to the officer's actions. "If it violated the law, then criminal charges may be approved," he said. Spielman says, as with any charges, the case would then go to court. "It's always still going to be that question of -- can it be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?"The first case the D.A. is reviewing under the new agreements is the July 24 shooting by sheriff deputies of a teenage girl at Standard Park. Officers said she appeared to point a gun at them, and three deputies fired shots. The girl's weapon was later found to be a pellet gun, sheriff officers reported. The girl was injured in the incident."That (incident review) we have just about complete," Spielman told Eyewitness News. "And, we'll probably be releasing it shortly."The D.A. will also review the Aug. 22 fatal shooting by Bakersfield Police officers at a Subway restaurant at Olive Drive and Roberts Lane. Two officers discovered Jason Alderman, 29, inside the restaurant at about 11:20 p.m. They said he appeared to point a rifle at them, and refused to put it down. That later turned out to be a car's jack. One officer fired shots, killing Alderman.Attorneys for Alderman's family have complained an additional review by the district attorney's office won't really get to the bottom of what happened. They've issued statements saying the D.A.'s office has little credibility, and asking for an outside investigation."There's those that will always say that we're rubber-stamping the investigation," Spielman said. He says the D.A.'s office works separately from law enforcement agencies, and there have been times in the past where officers have been charged with murder for in-custody deaths, or an officer charged for his actions in a fatal traffic collision."We have demonstrated that we're impartial," he said. "We're not part of them, though we work with them. But, ultimately we look objectively at the facts and make a determination."Spielman said the D.A.'s office will release their findings in these cases as quickly as possible, but still give all the needed time for a thorough review.

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