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The family of Richard Poccia, who was fatally shot by Napa police in front of his Alta Heights home Sunday, is calling for an independent investigation of his death.

With family members present, criminal defense attorney John Runfola held a news conference in San Francisco Friday evening questioning law enforcement’s accounts of the incident.

Runfola said he wanted access to police evidence in the slaying of 60-year-old Poccia. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the police shooting.

Napa sheriff’s investigators said Poccia, who had been reported to be suicidal, pulled a knife on Napa police officers after he came out of his house on the 1400 block of Meek Avenue with his hands in the air.   

At the news conference, Poccia’s wife, Samanda Dorger, said her husband was suffering from depression, but had not threatened to harm himself or others.

A longtime friend, Michael Fradella of San Jose, said Poccia was depressed, but not suicidal. Media reports that he might have been threatening to police were “so far from the truth about him,” he said.

Poccia’s wife had discussed Poccia’s depression with friends, including retired and active police officers, Fradella said. But she did not want them to call police, he said.

Dorger, who was not home during the incident, also never called police, as police initially stated, Fradella said.

The Napa County Sheriff’s department on Wednesday said Napa police Officer Nick Dalessi shot 60-year-old Poccia with a rifle as another police officer, Brad Baker, fired a Taser as Poccia “reached for his waist band and produced a knife.” 

The fatal shooting occurred in mid-afternoon after friends called police to report that Poccia was suicidal, had guns in his house and may have fired a shot through a bedroom wall, the Sheriff’s Office said.

According to a friend who had visited him, Poccia had said that any intervention by the police or emergency responders “would end badly,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement.

Police asked Napa County Mental Health to call Poccia, the sheriff said. Poccia did not answer the phone, officials said.

Police learned a little after 2:15 p.m. that Poccia was planning to leave his home to buy alcohol. Because of his suicidal state and access to firearms, police dispatched officers to the residence, the sheriff’s office said.

When police arrived at 3 p.m., they asked Poccia to come outside. Poccia complied and walked toward officers with his hands in the air, the sheriff’s statement said. 

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“After speaking with officers for a time, Mr. Poccia’s demeanor changed and he reached for his waist band, producing a knife,” the sheriff’s office said. “The officers believed their lives were in danger, and one officer with a Taser and another officer with a rifle, fired simultaneously. Mr. Poccia died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.”

The results of the criminal investigation will be forwarded to the Napa County district attorney in a few weeks, Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart said Friday. An autopsy has been completed but toxicology results are pending, she said.

Poccia was a longtime nurse in San Francisco and other Bay Area hospitals. In June, the California Board of Registered Nursing accused Poccia of administering pain killers and other controlled drugs without a doctor’s orders and without accounting for their use. 

Poccia’s license was still active, but he was on disability, according to papers filed by the California Attorney General on behalf of the Board of Registered Nursing. 

As of Friday afternoon, Napa City Attorney Michael Barrett said the city has not received a claim, a prelude to a possible suit against the city.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


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