Three months after unarmed Dylan Noble was shot to death by Fresno police officers, the Fresno County district attorney’s review of the case has not begun.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said that his office received the final evidence report from the Fresno Police Department on Thursday. The DA still is waiting for the FBI’s findings. Wright said that once the FBI report arrives, his office will need up to 60 days to review both and decide whether charges are warranted.
Wright said DA investigators have participated in interviews related to the case, but they cannot start weighing possible criminal cases until all the investigative reports are delivered.
What people want is for us to come forward and make decisions without all the evidence.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer
Fresno police Auditor Rick Rasmussen, whose job it is to monitor department practices for the city, also hasn’t received any evidence or response to his inquiries concerning Noble. Stuart Chandler, who filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city on behalf of Noble’s mother, also is waiting for the evidence.
In response to Rasmussen’s July report asking the department to speed up its investigation, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said he hoped the criminal review would conclude by the end of August and the department’s internal-affairs investigation would wrap up by the end of September. In the weeks following Noble’s death, Dyer asked for calm and patience while thorough investigations were performed.
Dyer said Friday that he did not know the exact reason for the delay in delivering the Noble report. He said the DA’s office often asks investigators to revisit a case in order to gather more information useful for them in court.
He said the FBI apparently has information that his investigators do not have, which is why the DA’s investigation has stalled. It was his understanding that the FBI would be submitting its report in two weeks.
Attempts to reach the FBI, which is said to be reviewing the case for civil-rights violations at Dyer’s request, were unsuccessful.
Dyer said an internal affairs investigation, looking into whether the two officers who shot Noble followed department policy, is complete. But he will not make the findings public until the DA has concluded its investigation. Dyer is reviewing this report.
The chief said any comment on the case itself or the fate of his officers would be premature.
“What people want is for us to come forward and make decisions without all the evidence,” Dyer said. “And that would be improper for us to do. We have a responsibility to get it right, and getting it right sometimes takes a little more time.”
He continued: “We expedited (the investigation) and did all we can, but certain things are out of my control.”
Noble’s death sent shock waves through Fresno and generated nationwide attention as part of the country’s heightened awareness regarding police killings.
The 19-year-old was killed June 25 during a traffic stop near Shields and Armstrong avenues. His friends and family held a vigil for him at the gas station, and more than 200 people marched through the streets of downtown Fresno to demonstrate against the shooting.
The unrest heightened after the department, under intense pressure from the public, released footage on July 13 from the body cameras worn by the two officers who shot Noble.
The footage shows Noble refusing repeated police commands to keep his hands up. Noble got out of his truck – despite commands to stay inside it – and began pacing.
After police told him not to take another step toward them, Noble yelled “(expletive) my life” and appears to take a step toward the officers.
One officer then fired two shots into Noble, who collapsed to the ground. After more commands to show his hands, that officer shot Noble once more as he was on the pavement. After still more commands, a second officer fired a shotgun into Noble at close range.
Noble died that day.
Chandler’s suit names the two officers involved as Raymond Camacho and Robert Chavez. Camacho, a 20-year veteran, fired the three shots. Chavez, a 17-year veteran, fired the final shotgun blast.
We have a citizen who should not have been shot and killed.
Stuart Chandler, attorney for Dylan Noble’s mother
Dyer said in the days after the shooting that each shot would be investigated separately – both criminally and during the procedure review. When pressed about the final two shots, fired as Noble lie clutching his abdomen on the pavement, Dyer expressed doubt.
“I, too, have questions about the last two rounds fired,” Dyer said, and whether they were “absolutely necessary or were there other options.”
Those “other options” are at the forefront of Chandler’s lawsuit.
Chavez is a K-9 officer, and his dog was inside his patrol car as the Noble incident unfolded. Chandler believes the dog could and should have been used to subdue Noble without bloodshed, while Dyer said that department policy bars the use of a K-9 unit in cases where a suspect is believed to be armed.
Camacho had been investigating reports of an armed man before chasing Noble, and Noble did have an object in his hand. That object was later determined to be a clear plastic container with a small amount of a grayish claylike substance.
In August, Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner Margaret Mims reported that Noble had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12, which is above the state legal limit. He also had trace amounts of the primary chemical component of cocaine.
In search warrant documents filed in Fresno County Superior Court, investigators cited Facebook posts and an interview with Noble’s girlfriend as evidence. Both indicated Noble was unhappy with family changes and his low-paying construction job.
The warrants also found that Noble had posted a picture of himself with a rifle, which was deleted after his death. The officers who killed Noble had been investigating a call of a man walking in the area with a rifle.
Noble’s friends and family have said publicly that he was not unhappy or suicidal.
In an interview Wednesday, Chandler expressed frustration with the city of Fresno and the DA’s office for what he believes to be inaction in the Noble case. He cited the recent arrest of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, who was charged with manslaughter less than a week after video showing her killing an unarmed black man went public.
“In both cases, we have a citizen who should not have been shot and killed,” Chandler said. “But (Tulsa County) took swift and decisive action. I am disappointed we have not had more definitive action by the powers that be” in Fresno.