No charges will be filed against a Long Beach officer who fatally shot a Cal State Long Beach student in 2015, according to a report released this week by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
“We find that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer [Matthew] Hernandez did not act in lawful self-defense and in defense of others,” read a 31-page memorandum from the district attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division.
According to the Long Beach Police Department, on Wednesday, May 27, Hernandez responded to the 4600 block of East 15th Street at about 7:30PM, where he came into contact with a wounded 20-year-old Feras Morad, who had just jumped from a second-story window.
Morad allegedly threatened to attack Hernandez in an alley while having a negative reaction to hallucinogenic mushrooms, officials stated.
Friends and family have disputed the account that Morad was a threat, stating instead that he was walking aimlessly with his hands in the air and in need of medical attention.
According to statements provided to authorities, Morad’s friends said they tried to restrain him before police arrived but he proved too strong to hold down.
The officer tried to detain Morad, then used a Taser twice and unsuccessfully tried to physically subdue him before firing multiple rounds from his service weapon at Morad, according to the memorandum.
Prosecutors found that “the evidence supports the conclusion that Hernandez actually and honestly believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury at the time he fired his weapon,” and that “this honest and actual belief precludes a prosecution for murder.”
Prosecutors also determined that there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Hernandez committed the crime of voluntary manslaughter with a firearm.’”
A toxicological analysis showed the presence of marijuana in Morad’s system at the time of his death, but he tested negative for psychedelic mushrooms and no further testing for other drugs was possible because blood samples were inadvertently discarded by the coroner’s office, according to the document.
The prosecution’s memorandum notes that many of the facts that Hernandez described were “corroborated by other witnesses at the scene” and that some witnesses “perceived the encounter between Morad and Hernandez as a dangerous one in which Hernandez would arguably have been justified in believing he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury at the time he fired his weapon.’”
Other witnesses described a “different type of encounter,” including a fire captain and a firefighter who said they did not believe Morad was being aggressive, according to the document.
City News Service contributed to this report.