SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has cleared an Orange officer who shot and killed a man who threatened to set himself on fire during an hour-plus standoff, the violent conclusion of which was captured on video released by prosecutors Wednesday.
DA investigators concluded that Officer Carlos Gutierrez’s actions were “reasonable and justified” when he fired at 33-year-old Michael Anthony Perez, who was reaching for a knife during a struggle with another officer, Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh announced during a press conference.
The announcement marked the first time the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has released footage collected during an investigation into an officer-involved shooting.
A Register freelancer’s video also captured the scene and accompanied an online story right after the incident.
Under a new policy announced earlier this year, the DA’s Office indicated it plans to release such footage as long as it’s not part of an active investigation or blocked by a court order.
“There is a great deal of question among the public about police-officer conduct and how it is done,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. “Our intention is to be open, to give as much information as we can, to share with the public as much information as we can.”
Shortly after 11:15 p.m. on March 12, 2017, an officer tried to pull over Perez, who was driving in a van with a broken taillight and had an open warrant for allegedly driving without a license.
Perez yelled at the officer, Baytieh said, asking why he was being pulled over, then pulled into a busy strip-mall parking lot in the 100 block of West Katella Avenue.
For more than an hour, Perez refused to get out of the parked van, telling officers that he didn’t want to go back to jail, Baytieh said. Video of the incident shows Perez placing a canister that authorities say contained gas on the dashboard of the vehicle.
“He told the cops multiple…