Two Daly City police officers who killed a mentally ill Pacifica man that stabbed one in March were justified and, in fact, showed “enormous restraint” in not shooting him earlier, according to the district attorney.
Errol H. T. Chang , a 34-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic, thrust a knife blade toward Busalacchi’s face and stabbed him in the arm which prompted the two officers to shoot approximately eight times at his chest. Chang died and Busalacchi underwent two surgeries.
The District Attorney’s Office investigated Chang’s March 18 death and on Friday announced the case was justified and closed. In a May 27 letter to Daly City Police Chief Manuel Martinez, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe commended both officers for their reaction to the threat of death.
“Officer Busalacchi faced a remarkably dangerous situation, knowing that an angry, irrational and armed man was now raising the knife to stab him again,” Wagstaffe wrote.
Chang’s death came after a six-hour standoff at his family’s San Pedro Avenue home where they’d been called by his mother to help get him to a hospital. She described him as paranoid, believing people were trying to assassinate him and possessing a “little ax” in his pocket.
The family told investigators they believed Chang wanted suicide by cop and had hugged them each before barricading himself inside which they took as his goodbye.
While trying to get Chang to leave the house, he repeatedly threatened to kill and chop the heads off officers, Wagstaffe wrote in his letter. He raised the ax at them several times but the officers “showed enormous restraint in not shooting Mr. Chang at that time,” Wagstaffe said.
The officers tried several methods to take Chang into custody include a beanbag shotgun, a Taser and “flash-bangs” which disorient a person through a blinding light and noise. After learning from Chang’s father a gun was inside the home, the SWAT team entered and found he had constructed barricades with furniture and mattresses throughout the house. They threw another flash-bang and saw Chang emerging from the smoke with a knife. Busalacchi jumped over the barricade but, as Chang struck at him, could not move. As Chang swung the blade toward the officer’s face and into his arm, Busalacchi fired his weapon twice and Woelkers fired several times.
During the subsequent investigation, Chang’s father Thomas said his son had a history of mental health problems and criminal activity. Errol Chang had experienced an “extreme mental breakdown” the previous two weeks and Thomas Chang said he barricaded his bedroom at night so he could sleep without fear.
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