A 23-year-old man was killed by Vallejo police early Sunday after he turned toward officers with what looked like a gun in his hand - but it turned out to be a fake [airsoft] weapon, according to authorities.
Police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said officers opened fire because they believed the man - who was standing behind the open door of a car - "was about to engage them with the handgun."
A 21-year-old man was also injured in the shooting when he was struck in the buttocks, Bassett said in a statement.
Police, however, did not find an actual gun in the car after the shooting ended. Bassett said they instead found an Airsoft replica handgun, a fake gun that fires plastic airsoft pellets, as well as more than 50 pills of ecstasy.
The incident comes just months after a spate of fatal officer-involved shootings in the Solano County city. Between May and the end of June, police in Vallejo fatally shot four men. While authorities said two of them had brandished guns before they were shot, the third had a BB gun and the fourth, a 17-year-old robbery suspect, was holding only a metal wallet.
Sunday's incident began at 4:33 a.m., when two officers patrolling the area around Pepper Drive and Lofas Place saw two men in a parked car on the 100 block of Pepper Drive. The officers tried to make contact with the men because of recent gang-related shootings in the area, and used their spotlights to illuminate the vehicle's interior as they approached it, Bassett said.
Crouching behind door
The driver immediately got out of the car and stood partially concealed behind the door, Bassett said "The butt of a [airsoft] handgun could be seen in his waistband area," he said. "The driver reached for the weapon as he crouched and turned away from officers behind the door of the vehicle. He then began to stand up with the [airsoft] weapon in his hand as he continued his turning motion back toward the officers who were in front of him. Believing that the driver was about to engage them with the handgun, both officers drew their weapons and shot at the driver."
After the first volley of shots, Bassett said, the suspect crouched behind the door. He said the officers - who were unsure whether they had struck the man - "ceased fire and began to yell at the suspect to show his hands."
The man raised his hands but then put them down and reached into the car, toward the center console, Bassett said. The officers fired again, he said.
"The shooting ceased when the officers saw that suspect stopped moving toward the console and had slumped back into the driver's seat," he said.
The officers then called paramedics, Bassett said. The 23-year-old man was taken to Vallejo Kaiser, where he was pronounced dead. The 21-year-old was taken to John Muir Medical Center, where he is being treated.
Neither man was identified by police, who said they are still trying to locate and notify family members. The officers' names were not released either.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, and both the police department and Solano County district attorney's office are investigating the incident, Bassett said.
Marisa Lagos is a Chronicle staff writer.
(Seems like San Francisco has a pretty strong history of police shootings.)