'Justified and reasonably necessary:' Officers who shot Mount Shasta man won't face charges, DA says
No criminal charges will be filed against Siskiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Adam Crisci and deputy Jon Erickson, who shot and injured now 21-year-old Jesse Beniamo Macias when he threatened them with knives in the midst of a mental health crisis in November of 2019.
"Mr. Macias was still alive after this incident because the officers' priority was ending the immediate threat rather than ending Mr. Macias' life," Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said in his report, released Wednesday. "The use of potentially deadly force by each of these deputies was justified and reasonably necessary to protect themselves and their fellow officers from the danger and likelihood of great bodily injury or death."
Macias - who was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity of four felonies related to the incident - remains incarcerated without bail at the Siskiyou County Jail in Yreka pending transfer to a California state hospital, where he'll receive up to 80 months of mental health treatment.
Macias's mother, Roxanne Macias, said his transfer has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and she worries her son has "fallen through the cracks."
"He's just languishing in jail with no treatment," said Roxanne. She said if he can't get the mental health treatment he needs in a state hospital, she'd like him to receive outpatient treatment from home.
Macias suffered permanent injuries to his right hand and arm as a result of the shooting, Roxanne said.
"He is right handed. He needs some PT in jail. He’s working it as he can, to regain controlled movement," she said.
On the morning of Nov. 5, 2019, officers responded to a call about a man making threats to family members while armed with a knife. When they arrived at Douglas Lane, they found Macias on the street with knives in his hands, Andrus said. The officers attempted to detain him, but Macias “ignored commands and advanced on the officers, throwing a knife at them."
Both Crisci and Erickson shot their firearms, striking Macias in the right arm and left calf.
Andrus delivered his official findings to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue. Andrus said this was a "fairly typical timeframe" to complete an officer-related shooting review.
Andrus said that he reviewed investigative reports and other evidence, including photographs and video of the incident, generated by the Siskiyou County Interagency Critical Incident Investigation Team and compiled by Detective Travis Cooke of the Yreka Police Department, who was assigned as lead investigator.
In the report, it was noted that Macias, who had a history of mental illness, became upset at his father because of something he saw on television. Macias proceeded to the kitchen and retrieved a large knife and then another knife, described by family members as “very sharp butcher knives," and held them in a menacing manner. He also told family members to barricade themselves in their rooms and threatened to kill them numerous times. The family called the Siskiyou County sheriff's dispatch, according to the report.
Crisci responded to the call and staged near the intersection of Lassen Lane and Douglas Way while Deputy Erickson came from Dunsmuir to provide backup, the report states. Also responding were Mount Shasta Police Department sergeant Joe Restine and officer Kylan Quick, who contacted Crisci, according to the report.
When Crisci arrived at the scene he noticed Macias, who was unknown to him, standing in the roadway with his hands behind his back, the report stated. Not knowing whether this was the subject with the knives, the three officers approached in their vehicles then got out and approached Macias. The officers spoke "encouragingly" to Macias, identified themselves, attempted to get Macias to identify himself and ordered him to show his hands, according to the report.
In response, Macias said nothing and showed no fear, nor did he change what he was doing except to begin walking slowly backward, the report states. When the three officers got to within approximately 30 feet of Macias he eventually brought his hands from behind his back to reveal a large knife in each hand, according to the report. At one point, Crisci thought he was in a position to potentially throw the knife. Quick had removed his taser from its holster and told Macias that he would be tased, though Quick never did get close enough to Macias for the taser to be effective and did not discharge the taser prior to the shooting, the report said.
A short time later, Erickson arrived to find the three other officers speaking to Macias. The officers had asked Macias his name, and if they could just talk about it, that they did not want to hurt him, and to put the knives down "please,” according to the report. In total, the officers told him to put down the knives at least 15 times, Andrus said in the report.
Macias began to walk very slowly backward, still saying nothing, the report said. He stopped, looked to his side and raised his right hand behind his head to an overhand throwing position with the wood-handled knife in his right hand. As Macias reached the apex of a throwing windup, with his right hand and the knife cocked behind his head, Crisci discharged his firearm multiple times, the initial shot followed quickly by Erickson discharging his own firearm, according to the report.
Shortly after the first shot was fired, by force of a throwing motion that had already been initiated, Macias threw the knife in his right hand at the deputies. Macias went to the ground and began to loudly groan and cry, according to the report. Both deputies stopped firing when Macias went down, the report stated. The knife he had thrown flew between the two deputies and came to rest on the roadway behind them both.
Several civilians witnessed the incident, most by hearing the shots fired. However, one resident saw Macias in the street and watched as he pulled the knives out, the report said. Another witness saw Macias in the street acting “aggressive” and “hostile” with “foot-long carving knives” in both hands. He saw Macias wave the knife in an aggressive manner before getting shot and, as a former medic, recognized the officers deciphering injuries, administering aid, and trying to save Macias' life.
The officers immediately took lifesaving measures for Macias, according to the report. Crisci called for medical assistance within seconds of the shooting and the officers treated Macias for the two bullet wounds he suffered. Andrus said in the report that when paramedics arrived, one asked Macias why he threw a knife at the officers. Macias responded, “I was being stupid."
Later, in the hospital, according to Andrus's report, Macias acknowledged that he wanted "suicide by cop” but was later glad they did not kill him, and he could tell that they did not want to kill him.
Macias was released from the hospital approximately one week later, and appeared in court on Nov. 13, 2019, for five felony charges including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
On July 9, 2020, a court trial was held in front of Judge John Lawrence of the Siskiyou County Superior Court. Lawrence found Macias not guilty of attempted murder but guilty of the other four felonies. The judge then found Macias not guilty by reason of insanity and referred him to a California state hospital for up to 80 months of treatment.
“I’m glad that somebody listened and understood that Jesse wasn’t trying to kill police officers,” said Roxanne Macias, who believes the charge of attempted murder was inappropriate for the situation. She said he was "in the depths of a personal emergency the day of the shooting, and that he was "suicidal, but not trying to kill anyone.”
Aside from the physical evidence and witness statements, Andrus noted in his report that he was aided in his investigation by three video recordings, two from law enforcement body cameras and the other from Quick's taser camera.
Andrus said in the report that "Each officer believed that his life and the life of other officers were in danger at the time that shots were fired. This belief was clearly reasonable under the circumstances. It is also clear that the officers took pains, and all appropriate actions, to avoid shooting Macias."
The report concluded with Andrus wishing the officers well "after their traumatic involvement with Mr. Macias. I also wish Mr. Macias well and express the hope that this event is prelude to a lifetime of greater mental stability through treatment and better decision making."
Roxanne Macias said she hopes her son’s case will make authorities stop and think about the use of force, especially when the subject is a person with mental health issues. She encouraged the formation of a mental health response unit to work in conjunction with law enforcement to “help prevent tragedy.”