An investigation into the police shooting that killed an 18-year-old freshman who attacked four people at the University of California, Merced last month has determined the actions of the campus officer were justified, the Merced County district attorney announced Monday.
Faisal Mohammad posed an imminent threat to campus police and Officer Olaf Lopez appropriately used deadly force to stop, according to a statement from District Attorney Larry D. Morse II.
Mohammad, a computer science student from Santa Clara, was killed on Nov. 4 after stabbing two students, a university staff member and a private contractor during a violent spree that authorities said was fueled by anger at other students. The four victims were wounded and treated at local hospitals. Mohammad was shot after he lunged at campus police with a large knife, Morse said.
With the officers standing about 10 feet away, Mohammad refused their demands to put the knife down and to get onto the ground, the investigation found. “These commands were issued repeatedly by the officers but ignored by Mohammad,” the statement said.
Instead, it said, Mohammad “advanced toward the officers and appeared to lunge toward Lopez with the knife raised about shoulder height. Lopez drew his service weapon and fired one shot at Mohammad. When Mohammad continued to advance toward the officer, he fired a second shot and Mohammad fell to the ground,” it said.
An ambulance was called to the scene and Mohammad subsequently was declared dead by paramedics.
The investigation into the shooting was conducted by Chief Investigator Pat Lunney, who led Merced Police as chief for 15 years and served six years as director of the Division of Law Enforcement for the California Attorney General’s office.
Lunney found that Lopez’s actions were in line with established law enforcment training and noted that witness statements about the confrontation were consistent.
“This horrible event was a tragedy for everyone involved, especially Officer Lopez who was forced by Mohammad’s aggressive actions to use deadly force,” Morse said. “Officer Lopez correctly assessed a potentially life-threatening situation and took the necessary action to protect himself or anyone else from becoming a victim of a person who was clearly intent on inflicting injury or death on innocent people.”