Police Officer Cleared In Shooting of Bicyclist

Alex Breitler

October 30, 2003

Prosecutors on Wednesday cleared a Redding police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of an unarmed parolee last month.

Shasta County District Attorney Jerry Benito said officer Chris Jacoby's use of deadly force was "reasonable." And, he said, toxicology tests have since revealed that 36-year-old Timothy Torchia was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the Sept. 16 shooting.

Benito's report reveals the most detailed information so far about the death, which came the same day that two marijuana growers were killed by Redding officers near Manton.

According to the report:
Jacoby was on patrol in the Parkview neighborhood around midnight when he spotted Torchia riding a 10-speed bicycle with no lights, a traffic violation.

Jacoby was suspicious due to the neighborhood's high crime rate, the late hour and Torchia's clothing, including a knit cap and gloves on a warm summer evening.

When Jacoby turned on his patrol lights and twice asked Torchia to stop, the man refused, quickly pedaling away.

The officer gave chase down Akard Avenue into an apartment complex. As Torchia tried to turn in to an alley, he crashed into a wall, falling off the bike. He sprang up and ran from the officer, who followed in his patrol car.
Torchia reached an open carport and ran inside, trapping himself. Jacoby pulled his patrol car in front and stood behind his open door with his gun drawn.

Torchia, meanwhile, went to a door within the carport and tried to open it, pounding on it in frustration.

When Jacoby yelled at the suspect to get on the ground, Torchia instead turned and charged the officer, "gritting his teeth and flexing his facial muscles," according to Benito's report.

Torchia began taking items from his clothing and tossing them to the side. First, he threw something with his left hand; then he reached behind his back with his right hand and pulled out a black object, which the officer thought to be a holster.

Jacoby kept ordering Torchia to get down and said he would shoot if he didn't comply.

But Torchia kept coming toward him and, when the men were 20 feet apart, again reached behind his back.

That's when Jacoby, fearing for his life, fired four shots, killing Torchia.
The entire encounter, from the start of the chase to the shooting, took about two minutes.

Officers later learned Torchia was a wanted parolee. The items he had thrown aside were one black glove and a black Oakland Raiders beanie. Still in Torchia's back pocket was a second black glove.

No weapon was found.

"A reasonable officer is not required to wait until he sees a firearm" before defending himself, Benito said. "These events move very quickly and even a one-second delay can mean the officer's life."

Torchia had a "large quantity" of meth in his system, Benito said, though coroner's officials would not release the exact toxicology figures on Wednesday.

Witnesses that evening said Torchia, who had a history of drug abuse and resisting arrest, was acting like he was under the influence of meth. And one day earlier, a patrol officer had tried to stop Torchia on his bicycle, but he had pedaled away, Benito said.

The district attorney defended Jacoby's decision to keep chasing Torchia, even after he wrecked his bicycle. The officer had "good grounds" to believe some kind of criminal activity was going on, Benito said.

Jacoby, an eight-year law enforcement veteran, spent about three days on administrative leave and has since returned to duty, Redding Police Chief Leonard Moty said Wednesday.

An investigation to determine if Jacoby was within department policy is nearly complete. But Moty said it was his opinion that Jacoby acted appropriately.

Police policy allows officers to shoot if there is an "actual or perceived" imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

"No officer wants to use deadly force," the chief said. "It's a very difficult decision when it happens."

Meanwhile, a Redding lawyer on Wednesday continued to call for a coroner's inquest of the death.

Michael Cogan, acting on behalf of the slain man's brother, Jason Torchia, said he's waiting for an answer from Moty and Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope. Benito has already denied the request.

Calling the shooting death of an unarmed man a "very unusual event," he said the inquest is necessary to make all information public.

"My client just wants it all to be seen in the light," Cogan said. "I think it's very important for our community that it be done publicly."

Instead of an inquest, officials have said the coroner's office is planning to hold a death review, with the Shasta County Grand Jury invited. No date has been scheduled.

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