Antioch police release footage of hectic day where officers killed man after hours-long standoff

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ANTIOCH — Police here have released footage showing a 55-year-old resident firing at a police drone, a snipers’ nest where officers shot his gun, and the conclusion of the hours-longs standoff where police shot him 19 times, killing him.

The videos, released through a records request by this news organization, depict the lengthy, violent Dec. 10 standoff that began with reports that Guadalupe Zavala was shooting at his neighbors, as well as pinecones and vehicles. One shot barely missed an 84-year-old woman standing next to her Christmas tree, while another whizzed passed the man who lived next door to Zavala.

Zavala fired shots at police too, until an Antioch police sniper fired a round into his gun, disabling it. A short time later, Zavala’s home burst into flames, which engulfed most of the residence. Zavala ran outside, holding an object that police mistook for a pistol. When he ran towards a police armored vehicle, two officers shot and killed him.

Including the two snipers, four officers fired their duty weapons during the day, but two — including Eric Rombough — reportedly fired all but one of the shots that struck Zavala. Rombough is one of eight Antioch officers who have been placed on leave while the FBI and Contra Costa District Attorney investigate them for suspected crimes of moral turpitude, multiple law enforcement sources have told this news organization. Three Pittsburg officers have also been engulfed by the probe, which includes potential civil rights violations for use-of-force incidents, as well as potential illegal drug use and other criminal activity. A grand jury has subpoenaed witnesses and may decide whether to issue an indictment before year’s end, according to multiple law enforcement sources. It is not known publicly whether the grand jury is reviewing Zavala’s death.

The other officer who fired the bulk of the rounds was Ryan McDonald. None of the four officers who shot at Zavala was called to testify before an inquest jury Friday, which heard from an Antioch police detective, a Contra Costa DA inspector, and a special agent with the California Department of Justice.

The footage became public record when it was played during an inquest hearing last week, where a jury ruled Zavala’s death a homicide. Coroner’s inquest juries are called to determine manner of death for all police-related fatalities in Contra Costa, and their decision carries no criminal nor civil liability.

The standoff started around 1 p.m. Dec. 10 when neighbors called 911 to report that a “tweaker” was firing a rifle at pinecones and vehicles. Neighbors were nearly struck by gunfire. One 84-year-old woman said a bullet nearly struck her as she stood next to the Christmas tree in her living room, so she hustled over to her 13-year-old granddaughter and hunkered down in another part of the building until officers evacuated them. Another neighbor said he felt a bullet whiz past his head after he peeked into Zavala’s yard to see where “explosions” were coming from, according to investigators’ testimony.

Dozens of officers arrived from Antioch and Pittsburg police departments, including two SWAT teams and a crisis negotiation team. They confirmed with family that Zavala was an Army National Guardsman who’d gone AWOL and was in possession of at least two firearms, an AR-15 rifle and a Glock pistol.

More than once they got Zavala on the phone and attempted to get him out of the house. At one point, he expressed disappointment he hadn’t shot anyone. At another point, he demanded that his master sergeant call him to verify that the armed men outside his home were really police officers, Antioch police Det. John Cox testified Friday.

Antioch officers Scott Duggar and Ted Chang set up a makeshift snipers’ nest behind some nearby trees and a hedge. The officers fired at Zavala when he first exited the home, rifle in hand, and crouched into a shooting position, DOJ Special Agent Kimberly Mansfield testified. One of the bullets struck Zavala’s rifle and may have injured his hand, leading to him to retreat back into the home. A short time later, a fire started that engulfed the entire residence.

Dr. Ikechi Ogan, the forensic pathologist, testified that Zavala suffered three gunshot wounds to the head, four to five in his chest and another four to five in the abdomen, as well as wounds to his arms and legs. He was also found with a “significant” level of methamphetamine in his system, Ogan testified.

Police later recovered the AR-15 but never found the pistol, though DA Inspector John Garcia theorized the mostly-plastic firearm may have melted in the fire. He showed jurors a picture of a torch that he believes Zavala used to start the blaze.

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