Undercover Fresno, California, narcotic officers shot and killed a man in nearby Sanger Thursday after he first displayed a weapon, then attempted to run away in a drug bust gone bad. Noel Torres, 22, becomes the 16th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.
The man had arrived in a vehicle with two other men, but pulled a gun as undercover officers moved in to make the arrest.
"Once the transaction was complete, undercover officers converged in an attempt to detain the three suspects, when one of the suspects produced a firearm in his hand," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
Dyer said the officers yelled at the man to drop his weapon, but he didn't and instead tried to flee on foot. He was shot by two officers as he ran and died shortly after at a nearby hospital. Three officers fired their weapons and are now on paid administrative leave while the investigation is underway.
The shooting is being investigated by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, but comments by Sheriff Margaret Mims to KFSN TV News suggest it will be little more than a formality.
"In this case, the suspect made a bad choice," said Sheriff Mims. "He got out of the vehicle, he was in fact armed and the officers feared for their own safety and took action."
It is unclear whether the dead man was trying to rip off the drug-buying informant, thought he was about to get ripped-off himself as men in plain clothes moved in, or was trying to avoid being arrested.
The shooting took place in front of a crowded McDonald's restaurant. Investigators are interviewing some 80 potential witnesses. Alina Silva was one.
"We saw cops running and shooting and everybody was ducked down and then next thing you know, they shot a guy over there," she told KSEE TV 24 News.