A KPCC investigation into police shootings in San Bernardino County
San Bernardino County is the largest geographic county in the U.S. Law enforcement serves more than 2 million people – a population greater than New Mexico's.
Yet, officials made little public about officer shootings. At a time of a national debate, KPCC wanted to uncover facts.
So, KPCC and The San Bernardino Sun collected hundreds of pages of records from January 2010 through December 2015 and started tracking it ourselves.
Officers in San Bernardino County shot at least 103 people in a six-year span.
One in four people shot by officers in San Bernardino County were unarmed.
We thought we'd see similar patterns in L.A. and San Bernardino Counties, but troubling trends stuck out.
More than 70 percent of people shot by police in San Bernardino County showed signs of using drugs or alcohol.
Officers in San Bernardino County shot people showing signs of substance use at double the rate of L.A. County.
Katherine Wann said her son was high and delusional when she called 911. “I needed help.”
A San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputy confronted her son in a shed. After a scuffle, the deputy shot and killed him.
Another San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy opened fire after responding to a domestic violence call. But she didn't hit the suspected batterer. She shot his unarmed wife – Penny Trent.
The deputy said she couldn't see her hands. Trent's prescription for opioids was discovered during an investigation into the shooting. Trent's lawyer, Jerry Steering, said the search was done to protect the department from a lawsuit.
“They are looking for dirt on her,” he said.
In 175 cases in San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties, officers shot suspects after their hands disappeared or they reached for their waistband. Often those suspects were armed. But mistakes were more common when suspects showed signs of alcohol and drug use.
San Bernardino officials say they never analyzed the connection between drugs and alcohol and officer shootings.
“Why you’re seeing that number in those officer-involved shootings? I’m afraid I can’t answer that,” said San Bernardino Sheriff’s Captain Robert O’Brine.
“We know that drugs and alcohol are involved in a great deal of what we do,” he added. “We are called for people who are under the influence of alcohol, people who are under the influence of narcotics or those those who are having mental crises.”
Drugs and alcohol pervasive in San Bernardino County police shootings
Experts say the crux of the issue involves officers’ ability to perceive deadly threats. The behavior of drug users often seems threatening when it may not be.READ MORE
In San Bernardino County, officers take aim at moving cars
Law enforcement in San Bernardino County are shooting into cars at more than double the rate of L.A. County. Many law enforcement agencies have banned the practice, because it’s inherently dangerous.READ MORE