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Napa police officer cleared of wrongdoing in fatal shooting
Law Enforcement

Napa police officer cleared of wrongdoing in fatal shooting

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No charges will be filed against the Napa Police officer who killed a 27-year-old man last December after a struggle for the officer’s rifle, Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley announced.

After reviewing an investigation of the shooting by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, Haley cleared Officer Christopher Simas of criminal liability.

In her news release Tuesday evening, Haley said “The use of deadly force by Officer Simas was a reasonable and lawful response under the totality of the circumstances. Therefore, the actions were legally justified and criminal charges against him are neither warranted nor supported by the evidence.”

This shooting was the first high-profile Napa Police Department officer-involved shooting caught on a body camera, although the camera did not capture exactly what happened in the moments before the fatal encounter.

On Dec. 5, 2018, Simas was dispatched to the vicinity of Soscol Avenue and Stonehouse Drive on a report of a man threatening several people, assaulting a woman and displaying a pistol in his waistband in a threatening manner, the district attorney said.

Officer Simas identified Molina as the suspect, but Molina refused to follow orders and ran away. Simas followed the armed suspect into a densely populated apartment complex and attempted to handcuff Molina who “violently resisted, grabbed ahold of his rifle and shot approximately seven times into the ground,” according to Haley’s news release.

“Mr. Molina attempted to take control of the rifle and refused to surrender. Fearing for his life, Officer Simas broke free and shot and killed Mr. Molina who had turned towards him from one step away,” the DA said.

The review by the District Attorney’s Office is summarized in a report available www.countyofnapa.org/1330/Documents. “The public deserves full transparency as how and why our office reaches a decision in an officer-involved shooting,” Haley said.

Molina’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Napa Police Department this fall, contesting the official account of the shooting. The suit notes that Molina had an intellectual disability from a childhood brain injury after being hit by a car.

The suit claims that no weapon was found by Molina’s body. Police acknowledged that he was not armed at the time of his death, but said they found a revolver near the crime scene that they believe was his.

Napa Police Chief Robert Plummer said after the shooting that if Molina had survived, he would have likely faced allegations of attempted murder of a police officer.

This was the second time in less than two months that the Napa County district attorney has cleared a local law enforcement officer of criminal liability after a fatal shooting.

In October, Haley said a Napa County Sheriff’s deputy, Riley Jarecki, had been justified in shooting a motorist, Javier Hernandez Morales, 43, in an encounter on a rural Carneros Road at night on Feb. 17.

Jarecki’s body camera footage revealed a man suddenly shooting at her after rolling down the driver’s side window.

Morales, who had been living in his car, had three outstanding warrants for his arrest in Napa County.

Most-read police briefs on NapaValleyRegister.com

Here is a roundup of other police and fire reports in Napa County.

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2019 is ending with a flurry of good stories. These are some of my favorite. They capture the flavor of life in Napa.

You can reach City Editor Kevin Courtney at kcourtney@napanews.com or at 707-256-2217.

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