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California Police Shoot Man Who Barricaded Himself In Hotel Room And Brandished Knife

Wounded man was facing an acute mental health crisis, his family says.

A California police officer shot a 45-year-old man who barricaded himself in a hotel room and apparently brandished a knife at armed officers.

The officer-involved shooting took place Feb. 23 at the Hampton Inn hotel in Pittsburg, California, which is about 40 miles east of San Francisco.

Pittsburg police said they were releasing the suspect’s name, along with footage of the shooting, on March 15 to be “foster transparency and trust” with the community.

Ashton Porter, of Alpharetta, Georgia, faces five counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, one count of felony vandalism and one count of criminal trespassing.

The video that was released, captured by a body-worn camera, was described by police as “critical incident video,” as it contains a small portion of the footage from a standoff that spanned more than 20 hours.

In a news release dated Feb. 25, Pittsburg Police detailed how the incident involving Porter two days earlier played out.

“Just after 12:30 p.m., Pittsburg Police officers responded to the Hampton Inn on California Avenue regarding a man breaking out a hotel window and smashing items inside his room.” The statement said that Porter had locked himself inside his fourth-floor hotel room and was still there when officers arrived. “He had now barricaded himself inside using the furniture from inside the room.”

According to the statement, members of Porter’s family arrived at the hotel and told officers that he was “suffering from an acute mental health crisis, and they were seeking to get him some assistance.” Because Porter, who was still refusing to come out, was experiencing mental health difficulties, police said they contacted the department’s specially trained Crisis Intervention Team.

Officers, crisis intervention specialists, and family members all tried to talk Ashton Porter out of his hotel room during a 20-hour standoff, in Pittsburg, California. (Pittsburg Police Department/Zenger)

“Officers additionally requested assistance from the Contra Costa County Mental Health Evaluation Team (MHET) and the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) to communicate with the man. The evaluation team consists of a Pittsburg Police Officer and mental health clinician from the Contra Costa County Mental Health Evaluation Team”” the statement said.

Through the evening, mental health personnel and officers continued to communicate with Porter, police said. Porter’s family and spouse also tried to convince him to leave the room and get help.

“During conversations, the man made statements he wanted to ‘end it all’,” police said. “Officers were concerned he could potentially fall out of, or jump from, the broken fourth-floor window and were able to use a utility boom truck to lift a plywood sheet to the hotel room’s window to cover it and prevent this from happening.”

According to the statement, Porter “was armed with a large butcher knife and was consistently swinging the knife around.” As a result, the Pittsburg Police Department tactical team was called in at about 9 p.m.

Mental health staff continued to talk with the man for a few hours. But police said “no progress was made despite their best efforts.”

Officers, crisis intervention specialists, and family members all tried to talk Ashton Porter out of his hotel room during a 20-hour standoff, in Pittsburg, California. (Pittsburg Police Department/Zenger)

“After exhausting all reasonable attempts to convince the man to come out of the room, officers deployed chemical agents into the room to encourage him to come out,” the statement said. “The initial deployment of the chemical agent had minimal effect, and the man remained inside the room. Officers waited a period of time and then made several additional chemical agent deployments. Just before 8:00 a.m. the following morning, the chemical agents had enough impact on the man to get him to come out of the room.”

Police said they told Porter not to bring the knife, but he nevertheless came out holding it.

“In an attempt to detain the man safely, two officers shot him with 40mm less-lethal rounds (sponge projectiles) as he entered the hallway. The less-lethal rounds had minimal impact on him, and he then turned toward several officers positioned at the other end of the hallway.

“The man then started to walk toward those officers with the knife in his hand, raised over his shoulder. One of the officers fired his service weapon, striking the man twice in the upper body. The man was immediately taken into custody, and a tactical medic stabilized him for paramedics to transport him to an area hospital.”

In a March 15 news release, police identified the officer who fired at Porter as Ernesto Mejia, a seven-year veteran of the force and a member of its tactical team.

Police also said Porter has been released from the hospital and remains in custody under a bail of $430,000.

Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Kristen Butler

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