Officer who accidentally shot man outside reggae fest will not face charges

A Long Beach police officer who accidentally shot a man whose arms were raised in surrender following a concert at the Queen Mary last February will not be charged, according to a report released Thursday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

The findings from the office of D.A. Jackie Lacey back up Long Beach police’s conclusions that motorcycle Officer Suradech Sriwanthana discharged his weapon accidentally, while wearing thicker riding gloves to fight the chilly weather that night. Anthony Garcia was shot in the forearm and recovered.

“Under the law, Sriwanthana bears no criminal liability if the evidence shows that the gunfire was the result of an accidental discharge of his weapon,”  the report states. There’s no evidence that Sriwanthana meant to fire the gun, according to the report.

The District Attorney’s office routinely reviews all police shootings in Los Angeles County, finding no criminal wrongdoing in the vast majority of them.

Sriwanthana’s “A.D.,” or accidental discharge, happened Feb. 9. As the report describes, Officer Kenny Cruz said he was working traffic control for the One Love Cali Reggae Fest around 11:30 p.m. when a driver in a black Honda Civic stopped to ask for directions to the 710 Freeway.

Cruz noticed an open bottle of Modelo beer in the center console cup holder.

He admonished the occupants for having an open beer in the car, reached for the beer and told them to roll down the windows, when he noticed a passenger in the back seat with a beer between his legs and the wood handle of a gun poking out of his pocket, according to authorities.

Fearing for his safety, Cruz shouted “Don’t move!” and grabbed the gun with his left hand, the D.A.’s report says. The car’s occupants followed the officer’s orders and raised their hands

Sriwanthana and another officer arrived to help. Sriwanthana approached the vehicle with his gun drawn. He was attempting to turn on the light on the gun, with the switch located on the front of the gun’s handle, according to the report.

Gun used by officer in accidental shooting Feb. 9. Photo courtesy the District Attorney’s office.

Seconds later, the gun went off, striking Anthony Garcia on the inner right forearm. Sriwanthana immediately said he had an A.D., or accident discharge. A passenger of the car sitting in the front seat said the officers seemed “surprised” by the shot.

“Sriwanthana was not wearing his regular riding gloves due to the cold and rainy weather,” the report states. “The cold weather gloves he was wearing were thicker and bulkier. Sriwanthana did not routinely train with the thicker gloves and never wore them during combat qualification courses.” The report also stated difference between the gloves was not significant enough to “have caused a reasonable person to believe that it would be unsafe to operate a firearm while wearing them.”

In its own report, the Long Beach Police Department determined that some of Sriwanthana’s actions before the shooting were not within department policy. The board recommended additional tactical training, including training with equipment not normally used.

The D.A.’s office “will take no further action on the matter.”

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Barbara Kingsley-Wilson is a full-time lecturer at California State University, Long Beach and an adviser to the campus’s student run newspaper, the Daily 49er. A journalist with over 20 years in the field, she continues to write and spends her summers as a general assignment reporter for the Long Beach Post. When she’s not drilling her pupils on the details of AP style, she’s likely practicing her downward dog or traversing the city perched atop her mountain bike.