A Vallejo police officer who fatally shot a black man during a confrontation in February 2018 will not face any charges, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams announced.
According to the Vallejo Times-Herald, officer Ryan McMahon shot Ronell Foster, 33, seven times during a scuffle in downtown Vallejo, California. McMahon claimed he was left with no choice but to shoot Foster after he allegedly grabbed hold of his flashlight and threatened to assault him with it.
Abrams, whose office officially closed investigations into the case on January 31, claimed their findings revealed McMahon “was justified in using deadly force.”
“We express our deepest condolences to Foster’s family during this very difficult time. Our office has had the opportunity to meet with the family of Ronnell D. Foster and informed them of our decision,” Abrams said in the statement. “We did inform them that our prosecutorial ethical obligation at the District Attorney’s Office is to follow the law and apply it to the facts of the criminal investigation being reviewed by our office.”
The statement added: “In this case, after reviewing all the facts and circumstances of the case and applying the applicable law, the District Attorney’s Office has concluded that the officer’s use of deadly force that resulted in Ronnell D. Foster’s death was justified.”
Foster was riding a bicycle when he was flagged to stop by McMahon for disobeying traffic laws and also riding without a flashlight. McMahon alleged that his reason for stopping Foster was to “educate” him on the said traffic infringements but he rode off, resulting in McMahon pursuing him, the Times-Herald reports.
Foster ended up abandoning his bicycle some time during the pursuit and took to his heels while McMahon also tried catching up with him on foot. Thinking Foster might be armed when he saw him attempting to take something out of his waistband during the pursuit, McMahon alleged that he discharged his taser, which hit Foster and caused him to stumble to the ground.
The officer claimed that after catching up with the suspect, several attempts at restraining him during their scuffle was unsuccessful, adding that the suspect eventually managed to take his flashlight which he was trying to use to overpower him.
Fearing for his life, McMahon allegedly told investigators he made the decision to reach for his weapon and shot Foster.
“This guy just took my light from me, we’re fighting and nothing I’ve used on him is working. He is gonna smack me in the head,” McMahon told investigators, according to the Times-Herald. “He’s gonna take my gun and shoot me or he’s gonna beat me down with my own flashlight and there’s nobody here to help me and nobody knows where I’m at.”
The bodycam footage of the incident was released after over a year. The movement and jostling of the camera, as a result of the struggle, however, makes it difficult to fully confirm if Foster was actually holding the flashlight before he was shot, the Times-Herald further reports.
Foster’s family, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Vallejo Police Department and the city in 2018, registered their disappointment with McMahon being cleared.
This isn’t the first time McMahon has been involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect. In 2019, he was part of the six officers who shot dead a 20-year-old aspiring rapper, Willie McCoy, who had been sleeping in his car at a Taco Bell. Police said he had reached for a gun first, but his family retorted that McCoy was only waking up when he was shot.
A total of 55 shots were fired at McCoy’s car, with more than 20 hitting him.