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Napa County District Attorney clears deputy of wrongdoing in February shooting

Napa County District Attorney clears deputy of wrongdoing in February shooting

No charges will be filed against the Napa County Sheriff’s deputy who killed a man who shot at her during a roadside encounter.

On Feb. 17, Deputy Riley Jarecki was patrolling her beat area in rural Napa County when she noticed a car pulled to the side of Henry Road in the Browns Valley area, according to a report by the Napa County District Attorney’s Office released late Friday afternoon. After a brief conversation with the driver, body camera footage revealed the man suddenly shot at her shortly after rolling down the driver’s side window.

Jarecki “returned fire to save her own life” and “her actions were a reasonable and lawful response,” DA Allison Haley wrote in the report.

It was later discovered that driver Javier Hernandez Morales, 43, had multiple aliases and an extensive criminal history, including charges of selling controlled substances, assault with a deadly weapon, driving drunk and battering of a peace officer, according to the report. He had been living in his car and had three outstanding warrants in Napa County at the time of the confrontation.

Jarecki didn’t know any of that when she pulled up behind his car at 10:45 p.m. that night. The car was registered to a fake name.

She knew there had recently been an influx of stolen cars in Napa and alarm calls at wineries, according to the report. She said she wanted to ensure the driver wasn’t a criminal or a stranded motorist needing help.

When she approached the car, Morales took a long time to provide his identification. Morales, a Mexican national, said he only spoke Spanish when asked for his birthday and whether there were drugs or weapons in the car, though they communicated in English up to this point, according to the report.

He rolled down his window, shot his revolver at Jarecki three times and started his car. Jarecki saw the gun flash and her ears started ringing, according to the report. She thought she might have been shot and moved to the back of the car. She returned fire through the passenger side of the car, emptied her weapon quickly and reloaded, according to the report. Fifteen of Jarecki’s bullets were found on the scene.

Morales wasn’t moving. She didn’t fire again and held him at gunpoint for five minutes until backup arrived, according to the report. Jarecki thought she had been shot in the head or face. A Napa Police Department Officer told her she was not bleeding.

Jarecki was uninjured, according to the report.

“He, without provocation, excuse or legal justification, fired multiple shots in the direction of her head and torso,” Haley wrote.

Investigators later found Morales’s weapons were not registered and the gun was reported stolen out of Fremont in 2009. A Winchester 74 .22 caliber rifle and gas-powered pellet rifle were also found in the car, along with 335 .22 caliber cartridges on Morales’s person and throughout his car, according to the report.

Morales died due to gunshot wounds, an autopsy revealed. He was under the influence of meth.

In an op-ed to the Register, Morales’s family wrote that he used drugs and alcohol to cope with bouts of depression. They called for the community and country to place a greater premium on mental health.

Morales sought to find peace and calm his mind in nature and on the outskirts of town, where he was found in his final moments, his family said.

“But on that tragic night we lost the fight,” they wrote. “Through the officer, he found his way out of the pain at last.”

Courtney can be reached at 707-256-2221. Follow her Twitter and Facebook accounts, @courtneynteague, for more on her reporting.

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Public Safety Reporter

Courtney Teague is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She can be reached at 707-256-2221. You can follow her reporting on Twitter and Facebook, or send her anonymous tip at: tinyurl.com/anonymous-tipbox-courtney.

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