The Lancaster police department on Thursday announced that the officer who fatally shot Ricardo Muñoz on Sept. 13 followed department policies and training.
The department’s announcement came eight days after Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams concluded that the officer was justified in using deadly force against Munoz.
The police department’s report itself is not being released. Generally, the city has not released such reports on the grounds that they deal with personnel matters.
“Last week the mayor said the findings of the internal investigation would be made public and they have,” said Jess King, chief of staff to Mayor Danene Sorace.
King said the district attorney’s review — a criminal investigation looking at whether the officer was legally justified — already disclosed significant details of the shooting.
Muñoz, 27, came out of his mother's Laurel Street house, armed with a knife, and ran toward the officer. The officer retreated and fired four shots as Muñoz chased him. Muñoz fell to the ground and was pronounced dead within minutes.
The shooting was recorded on the officer’s body camera, with portions of the footage released publicly.
Police had been dispatched for a domestic disturbance call to the home. Muñoz’s family has said they had been calling to get help for Muñoz, who had a history of mental illness.
No immediate policy changes are being made by the police department as a result of the internal investigation.
When the DA’s findings were announced, Sorace said she wanted to work to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, while also noting that there was no time for the officer to use de-escalation tactics to avoid killing Muñoz.
Police, she said at the time, had “shared their desire for the city to invest in a crisis intervention co-responder model in tandem with the police social worker to de-escalate crises, link mental health consumers with community resources, and provide better outcomes for all involved. This needs to be a priority in our work going forward — both in the city budget and in conversation with our partners at the county who operate crisis intervention."
King said work is being done on that.
“There are a lot of conversations happening and a lot of interest from a lot of parties,” she said.
Daisy Ayllon, one of the attorneys for the Muñoz family, said of the department’s findings: “We — the family and attorneys — are outraged at the lack of transparency, at the D.A., the City of Lancaster, and Lancaster police department’s refusal to be forthcoming with information and to make the tapes, videos, reports, et cetera, immediately available to the public and us, and at the fact that they did not take any steps to refer this case to a different agency for an independent review.”
She said questions persist in the case, including: how are police trained to respond to calls involving mental health issues, and should the officer have waited for back up?
A lawsuit has not been filed.
The officer who shot Muñoz has returned to work. His name is not being released. King cited the officer’s privacy and safety concerns, echoing the district attorney’s reasons for not identifying the officer.
A review of previous police shootings in the county indicate officers names have sometimes been released, but often not, with the previous district attorney citing credible threats.