A 27-year-old man suspected of assault on a female was shot and killed by a Napa Police officer early Wednesday morning after a foot chase and struggle, Chief Robert Plummer reported.
Plummer said events unfolded after the dispatch center got a call at 1:48 a.m. of a male assaulting a female. A Napa Police statement said officers were sent to the Kentwood Apartments on Soscol Avenue and River Glen Drive. The male, later identified by the Napa County Coroner’s Office as David Alejandro Molina of Napa, was reported to be armed with a handgun.
Molina left the apartments and was soon found skateboarding along Soscol, according to the statement. Officers asked him to put his hands up and get on the ground, but instead he ran to the nearby Vineyard Terrace apartments at Soscol and Stonehouse Drive.
An officer continued to chase him and asked him to cooperate for “several minutes,” but Molina kept running, according to the statement.
The chase took the officer and the suspect into a wooded area near the Vineyard Terrace apartments. There was a struggle and “gunfire erupted,” Plummer said.
No residents were in harm’s way, Plummer said.
The officer, who sustained minor unspecified injuries, used his department-issued rifle, according to the statement. Molina was declared dead by emergency medical responders at 2:05 a.m., according to the Coroner’s Office.
Molina’s father, Jorge Molina, said his son was raised in Napa. He was generous with a loud and contagious laugh.
Molina’s life took a turn after he was hit by a car at age 7, the father said. He suffered frontal lobe brain damage, which curbed the development of his reading and writing skills. His son also struggled with bipolar disorder, he said.
Police will release the name of the officer within 48 hours, Plummer said.
Per department policy, the officer will be taken off duty while the investigation continues, Plummer said. Before being returned to duty, the officer would have to be evaluated by a psychologist, he said.
The body remained at the scene of the shooting at daybreak, awaiting a coroner’s investigation, Plummer said.
Plummer said he didn’t know if any weapons had been recovered.
The investigation is being led by the Napa County Major Crimes Task Force, which sits under the Sheriff’s Office, according to the statement.
Father tells of his son’s final hours
Molina’s father said he was on his way to pick up his son at a nearby gas station when he realized something was wrong.
“By the time I got there, he was nowhere to be found,” Jorge said. “All I saw was all the cars and later on, the ambulance and the fire department, and I knew it wasn’t good.”
Molina lived with his parents. Jorge said his son went out with two friends — a man and woman who were dating — earlier that night. They went to look at a lit Christmas tree, ate dinner at Taco Bell and stopped briefly at the Molina home.
The couple even came in the house at one point to say hello to the family, Jorge said.
Molina later got into an altercation with the couple in the car and they kicked him out, Jorge said. Molina returned home and said his phone and wallet were still in the car.
Molina decided to head over to their apartment to get his belongings after calling his cellphone for at least 30 minutes straight, Jorge said. He gave his son a hug for the last time and told him getting his phone back wasn’t worth it.
Jorge eventually got a call from his son, asking for a ride. Molina said an altercation occurred when he arrived at the apartment and the woman slapped him in the face, Jorge said.
Jorge admitted his son had gotten into fights with men, but did not believe that he would put his hands on a woman.
“He did not have a chance,” he said. “If somebody’s running away from you, I don’t think shooting is the way to do it.”
Molina was raised in Napa with two brothers and a sister. “He was pretty much a giver, he wan’t a taker,” Jorge said. “He was always trying to make people happy.”
Jorge admitted his son had run-ins with law enforcement. Court records show arrests for resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer in 2013. Molina had a mouth sometimes and he was impressionable, and got into trouble when he was younger, he said.
Molina once presented his father with a gun and said he needed it for protection because others wanted to do him harm, Jorge said. Jorge said he told his son that guns were not allowed in his house and he needed to get rid of the firearm, but he doesn’t know what happened to it.
“I miss him tremendously,” Jorge said. “He was a ray of sunshine.”
Police said they will issue a more complete report on Monday once more interviews are conducted and images from an officer’s body camera are reviewed.
Soscol north of Lincoln was shut down much of the night and Wednesday morning while officers looked for evidence.
First officer-involved shooting of 2018
This was the department’s first officer-involved shooting of the year. In 2017, there were two, records show.
In March 2017, Noel Aaron Russell, 23, was killed when he advanced on an officer with a knife in a parking lot north of South Napa Marketplace. The Napa County District Attorney’s Office determined that the shooting was justified.
Russell, who had been living in a tent next to the Napa River, had used meth and consumed alcohol before threatening shoppers with a knife just before the confrontation with police, District Attorney Allison Haley reported.
In April 2017, Stephen Connard Ferry, 64, was killed in a hail of bullets after a shootout with officers from Napa Police and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. Police were called after Ferry, who was heavily intoxicated, began shooting at his neighbors in west Napa’s Linda Vista neighborhood.
The DA cleared 13 law enforcement officers who used deadly force to stop Ferry.