A San Bruno police officer was justified in fatally shooting the driver of a stolen car who refused demands to raise his hands and instead accelerated toward him in a bid to escape arrest, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The office announced Friday it will not file charges against Officer Andrew Harper and the case of 25-year-old San Francisco resident Ryan Salonga’s Oct. 22, 2013, death is closed.
Harper exercised his police powers “in an appropriately decisive manner” against Salonga and should “be commended” for stopping his “deadly force and life-endangering conduct,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe wrote in a Feb. 5 letter to San Bruno Police Chief Neil Telford.
Harper encountered Salonga and passenger Sonny Ivone Tialavea about 2:08 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 while patrolling in the area of El Camino Real and Taylor Boulevard. Harper followed the black Acura 2.4 TL northbound and eventually onto dead-end Poplar Avenue while waiting for confirmation it was stolen. Harper stopped his car behind the Acura, between two parked cars on each side of the narrow street, and approached the vehicle demanding the two men inside show their hands. Tialavea complied but Solanga revved the engine, U-turned, backed onto a residential lawn and accelerated toward Harper who fired 14 times. The Acura reversed into the Poplar Avenue home’s porch. Backup officers arrested Tialavea and found Salonga presumably dead at the scene.
An autopsy later showed Salonga had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system.
During the investigation, Tialavea told authorities he ran into Salonga that night and had been driving around for several hours in the car which he assumed to be stolen because that was Salonga’s “hustle.” Tialavea also said the men knew the officer was following them and heard his commands to turn off the car and put up their hands.
Witness corroborated Harper’s statement that Salonga failed to obey his orders and purposely drove the Acura toward the officer, Wagstaffe wrote in the letter to Telford.
Prior to the fatal encounter, Wagstaffe said that Salonga has previously driven recklessly and endangered police officers multiple times while trying to evade apprehension for driving stolen vehicles. The assumption is he would have done the same to Harper, according to Wagstaffe.
Salonga’s death was San Mateo County’s only officer-involved fatality of 2013.
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