San Diego Police officers who fired shots at a man in Rolando last year were justified in their use of deadly force, the San Diego District Attorney’s office announced Monday.
Body camera video recorded by San Diego Police shows the officers engaged in gunfire with Joe Darwish on June 23, 2018.
Police responded to a disturbance call at the condo on Rolando Court. When they smelled smoke, they called firefighters to the scene, the DA’s office said in a news release.
Officers knocked on the front door for more than 20 minutes but received no response, officials said. Firefighters forced entry into the home but were met with gunfire.
Darwish shot one officer in the back with a large caliber weapon, according to the DA’s office. Two officers returned fire as they provided cover for the wounded officer, who couldn’t move for several seconds. The wounded officer eventually managed to roll onto his stomach and crawl away from the line of fire.
Darwish also shot a second officer during the exchange of gunfire.
The DA’s office said the shooting eventually stopped and officers found Darwish dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. Darwish had also been hit in the face and arm from one of the officers’ shotguns.
“This harrowing incident shows just how quickly a routine call for service can turn deadly for police officers who suddenly found themselves in the line of fire, trying to protect their wounded fellow officers and keep the shooter from endangering members of the public,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “It’s a tribute to these officers’ bravery and quick response that the gunman didn’t injure more people or kill the officers and firefighters involved.”
Darwish had been wearing a bulletproof vest. He was armed with two homemade guns: an assault weapon and a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, according to the DA. Neither gun was registered.
Both wounded officers, Francisco Roman, a 3-year veteran, and Dan Bihum, an 18-year veteran of SDPD, recovered.
Questions had been raised about whether the shooting could have been prevented. Last summer, Team 10 reporter Jennifer Kastner broke the story about how officers wanted to search Darwish’s home for weapons, days before the massive shootout. However, the Office of the San Diego County District Attorney did not attempt to get a search warrant.
In the days after the shooting, 10News was tipped off by a law enforcement source that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had wanted to search Darwish’s home because they thought he had a weapon and was buying parts to make more weapons.
Darwish wasn’t supposed to own any weapons because of his criminal history. Our source said the FBI asked the District Attorney’s Office to sign off on having a judge issue a search warrant, but the DA’s Office did not do so.
For 7 weeks, 10News had been trying to confirm this with the DA’s Office. After our 10News attorneys got involved, the DA’s Office sent us a letter reading in part, “On June 13, 2018, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office received a request by law enforcement to review a draft of an affidavit in support of a search warrant to conduct a search of Mr. Darwish’s person, property and residence. The District Attorney’s Office determined that the warrant was legally deficient and so advised law enforcement.”
June 13th was 10 days before the big shooting.
10News asked the DA’s Office why it turned down the FBI’s request to do a search warrant, but the DA’s Office stated it was “exempt from disclosure”.
This afternoon, we emailed the DA’s Office for new comment. We are waiting for a reply.