An innocent bystander who was holding a cell phone on his own property was shot last week, with officers saying they perceived an “imminent threat” because they mistook his phone for a gun, according to several news reports.
Danny Sanchez of Rancho Cordova, California, the unarmed man who was shot by police, reportedly underwent surgery Friday to remove bullet fragments from his leg. The officers who shot at him are reportedly on paid leave while the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department investigates the shooting.
The incident happened Thursday when Sanchez’s next-door neighbor, Ben Ledford, was allegedly “firing up to 100 machine gun rounds at a home across the street, killing a dog inside the house,”CBS Sacramento reported. Ledford surrendered to police, but officers fired at Sanchez after they saw him stand at the edge of his open garage and extend his hand out with an object—which turned out to be his cell phone, local NBC affiliate KCRA reported.
“He was yelling, ‘Dad I’m shot, I’m shot,’ so I grabbed him inside and closed the garage door,” said the man’s father, John Sanchez, according to KCRA. “I put a tourniquet around his leg and a clean towel.” Danny Sanchez was apparently either taking pictures or video of police.
Police “told him they were sorry that he got shot and everything, that they made a mistake,” John Sanchez told CBS Sacramento. There were bullet holes in Sanchez’s garage and car.
Officers thought there “was an imminent threat to themselves and another person across the street,” and “discharged their weapons based on what they perceived at the time,” Sgt. Jason Ramos told KCRA. Sanchez’s home was searched and he was “detained briefly” for questioning, but he is not facing charges, the report said.
“Needless to say, it took us some time to find out who had what role in this incident,” Ramos told CBS Sacramento.
On Thursday, Ramos described Sanchez’s actions to Fox 40 in more suspicious terms, saying that “officers observed a man inside a garage holding what they believed to be a gun. He refused to put it down and they shot at him as he retreated back into the house.”
After it became known that Sanchez was holding a phone and not a gun, Ramos told KCRA, “I think it’s reasonable to think that the officers perceived an immediate threat either to themselves or continued threat to that individual [across the street].”