The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office says a Long Beach police officer used reasonable force when he fatally shot a man holding a switch blade at Looff’s Lite-A-Line arcade in 2015.
Mharloun Saycon, a 39-year-old Carson resident, was shot six to eight times by Officer Vuong Nguyen on Dec. 14, 2015, after police were called for reports of a man who appeared to be under the influence and had brandished a knife when asked to leave, according to a DA report released this week.
Nguyen, a 12-year veteran of the department, said Saycon was sitting in a chair holding a switch blade and failed to drop the knife after police used Tasers and a baton. Saycon, at one point, moved slightly forward, leading the officer to believe he was going to stand up and attack, according to the report.
Saycon’s family described him as a gentle person who suffered from mental illness. The family later filed a lawsuit against the city that was settled for $2 million.
The DA’s office for its investigation brought in retired Los Angeles Police Department Captain Greg Meyer as an outside use-of-force expert. Meyer determined that the shooting was reasonable but said it was a “close call” because Saycon was still sitting in the chair and had not actually stood up or charged officers when he was shot.
He noted the lack of clear video evidence and said modern de-escalation tactics may or may not have avoided the deadly shooting. Meyer noted surveillance video showed Nguyen suddenly move backwards before shooting, indicating that “Saycon was doing something different that caused Nguyen reasonable fear,” Meyer said.
Witnesses said Saycon had been scratching glass with the knife, but had not attempted to hurt anyone inside the business. Nguyen and his partner Officer Robert Cruz both used their Tasers, and Cruz then used his police baton when Saycon failed to comply.
“At one point, Saycon passed the knife from his right hand to his left hand while continuing to mumble to himself,” according to the report.
Saycon moved his back and shoulder slightly forward, at which point Nguyen believed he was going to attack and fired three to four rounds at Saycon from his handgun, the report says.
The officer said Saycon was still moving despite being shot, so he fired additional rounds.
“Nguyen was in ‘shock’ and in a ‘surreal-like state’ believing Saycon was still attempting to attack them even after being shot,” the report noted. “At this point, the knife was now locked in the open position with the blade fully exposed. The first shots appeared to be ineffective, but Saycon was moaning.”
Several witnesses provided conflicting accounts of the incident, but that is not unusual because “individuals witnessing an incident do not always perceive it in the same manner,” the report noted.
The DA’s office in its conclusion said Nguyen “had an honest belief in the need for self-defense and defense of others when he used deadly force.”