NBC San Diego – by Paul Kruger and Andie Adams
San Diego police confirm that a Vietnam veteran killed by police sergeant in a downtown stand-off was holding a plastic pellet gun.
John Edward Chesney, 62, was shot after about an hour-long standoff with police in the 900 block of Broadway.
The dead man’s friends told NBC 7 they do not blame officers for Wednesday’s deadly shooting, but still think that terrible outcome could have been avoided.
Those friends and Chesney’s landlord, David Reichbart, said Chesney had been in poor health and had significant mental health issues.
They also said he abused alcohol and became despondent and upset when he drank.
“He would get kind of melancholy, kind of sad, thinking about his family, people that he’d lost, and just very emotional,” Reichbart told NBC 7 News.
Police responded to Chesney’s apartment around 11 a.m. Wednesday on reports of a man with a long gun in his hands.
Officers and negotiators tried to communicate with Chesney, but to no avail, police said. That’s when canine officers, a psychiatric emergency response team and a SWAT team were called in.
During the ordeal, officers said Chesney acted agitated and ultimately pointed what police believed was a rifle at officers.
Sgt. Kerry Mensior — a 22-year veteran of the police department — then opened fire, killing Chesney.
Michael Michaud, who had known Chesney for seven years, thinks his friend was suicidal and recalls how Chesney recently told another friend that he “wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.”
“It’s very sad, breaks my heart that it happened like that,” said Michaud, “and I’ll miss him very much.”
Homicide investigators confirmed Thursday that the weapon they say Chesney pointed at an officer was replica pellet gun, modeled on an AR-15 rifle.
Two friends said they could have persuaded Chesney to drop the weapon and surrender to police.
But Michaud was away at work during the standoff, and Reichbart said police would not let him near Chesney’s room.
“They took over the situation, and that was it. They didn’t want anyone near the building,” Reichbart said.
Still, Reichbart and Michaud do not blame police for their friend’s death. They only wish the stand-off could have ended differently.
“It’s very sad,” Michaud said. ”It breaks my heart that it happened like that. And I’ll miss him very much.”