A non-fatal officer-involved shooting of an unarmed Lompoc man in February was officially ruled a “justified use of force,” according to a release from Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley’s office.
Rudy Delgadillo — then 24 — was shot in the shoulder after Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies Ross VanTassel and Yeshella Jimenez opened fire and was suspected of driving recklessly and wrecking vehicles in the area. He ignored commands and “reached for his waist,” the district attorney’s report said.
Delgadillo was hospitalized after being shot and released two days later. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said at the time that he was “charged in absentia” for obstructing an officer and violating probation; Both deputies have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
In the months since, Detective Daniel Kohli has reviewed investigative reports, video, audio, photographs and witness interviews and presented his findings to the District Attorney’s Office.
The report details the incident that sparked reports of a reckless driver crashing into several parked vehicles and a fence in an unincorporated area of Lompoc near the Providence Land Clubhouse.
Delgadillo matched the suspect description and was the first to contact VanTazel, the deputy who saw him running near the club. According to the report, the deputy made eye contact with Delgadillo, who “stopped, pulled up his pants and then resumed walking.”
VanTassel said this first contact “didn’t feel right,” and when the suspect pulled up his pants, Delgadillo “looked like he was getting ready to run or he was getting ready to fight.”
After losing sight of Delgadillo and then finding him about 90 feet down the hill near the dumpster, VanDezel describes Delgadillo as “stopping and looking back and forth.”
He said Delgadillo’s actions gave him a bad feeling.
“Just an inkling that something wasn’t right,” VanTazel said in an interview included in the report. “Just – my heart wasn’t right. It didn’t seem like … something — something was wrong with him. He – it didn’t seem normal. This didn’t seem like someone I was going to have a normal interaction with. Or even an intervention he doesn’t want to hear or go to jail for. Like, it’s totally different, and like – I don’t know how to explain – like, something weird in my heart just didn’t feel right.
At 1:54 p.m., VanTazel exited his vehicle less than a minute after the shots were fired. At the time of the incident, he had been a new deputy on the job for over three months.
According to the report, Deputy Jimenez arrived seconds after VanTassel, saw the deputy with his weapon drawn and gave chase. She said she couldn’t see Deggadillo from the top of the hill, but she pointed the gun in the same direction.
Within that next minute, VanTazel gave verbal commands to Delgadillo, telling him to kneel; He radioed that there was a “guy at gunpoint” and said he would call a K-9 unit on the suspect.
Delgadillo “raised his jacket and started digging in his waistband,” VanTazel said, raising his hands in what the deputy described as a “shooting stance.”
VanTassel fired eight shots and then said he saw Delgadillo “digging in his waist again.” He said he thought the suspect was reaching to “make a second weapon” and fired two shots. Jimenez fired once.
When asked why he fired the second shot, VanTazel said it was because Delgadillo “didn’t stop reaching for his waist and he was afraid Delgadillo was going to kill him.”
Asked why he believed that, VanTazel said, “Everything that happened. He didn’t – something was wrong. Something went wrong – I never got along with anyone before.
Other deputies arrived moments after the shooting. Both deputies had in-car recording systems, but neither captured video of Delgadillo. VanTassel’s actions can be seen in Jimenez’s video recording.
Jimenez said he couldn’t see Delgadillo in full — only his upper body — but described his hands as “like he was gripping something on his front waist.”
She fired after seeing VanTassel raise his hand and hearing gunshots. Delgadillo was later found unarmed.
Several deputies approached Delgadillo, who was lying on his back, and handcuffed him before discovering a gunshot wound to his shoulder. He was described as “incoherent and behaving as if under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant”.
On the way to the hospital, Delgadillo was said to be disoriented and uncooperative. He was later found to be under the influence of a drug called amphetamine.
Delgadillo was briefly interviewed by law enforcement the day after the incident, but only stated that he had “some personal issues” and did not want to talk further.
The district attorney found that the actions taken by the two deputies were “reasonable based on the facts known and understood by them at the time of the shooting,” and that “Delgadillo posed an imminent threat and reasonably believed that he intended to cause her serious bodily injury. Death.”
In 2021, Santa Barbara County recorded seven incidents of violence. Most recently, the shooting deaths of 32-year-old Travis Carlon in Lompoc and 30-year-old Cameron Ely in Santa Barbara were also justified.
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