By Laura Dixon | Bay City News Service
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Monday he would not file charges against a sheriff's deputy who shot and killed an 18-year-old woman wielding a kitchen knife near Half Moon Bay in June.
Yanira Serrano-Garcia was killed outside of the Moonridge housing complex on Miramontes Point Road the night of June 3 when San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputy Menh Trieu shot her as she charged toward him with a knife, according to Wagstaffe.
In a letter to Sheriff Greg Munks Monday, the district attorney said he had concluded that Trieu's use of force against the teen was legally justified and may have saved his own life, if not the lives of other officers arriving on the scene.
Trieu responded around 9:20 p.m. to the home on Maidenhair Walk after Serrano-Garcia's brother called police to report that the teen was acting violently toward their parents, according to Wagstaffe.
Within about 30 seconds of arriving at the home and after trying unsuccessfully to speak with Serrano-Garcia's Spanish-speaking mother, the teen started screaming and charged at Trieu while holding a 10-inch knife over her head, according to the district attorney.
According to Wagstaffe, the deputy retreated as the teen came toward him and repeatedly told her to drop her weapon but Serrano-Garcia continued running toward him with the knife poised, ready to strike.
Feared that he would be stabbed, Trieu shot the teen once, striking her in the chest, according to the district attorney.
The deputy immediately called for medics to render aid to the teen but she died within minutes.
Investigators later confirmed that Serrano-Garcia suffered from schizophrenia and that her "four-year history with mental illness is well-documented," the district attorney wrote.
Wagstaffe said that while Serrano-Garcia's death was tragic, "Deputy Trieu's decision to protect himself and others against great bodily injury or death was preceded by the exercise of restraint on his part, and repeated commands for Yanira Serrano-Garcia to stop her attack."
In his own statement today, Munks called the deadly shooting a "truly tragic occurrence."
"Each day the men and women of the sheriff's office put on their uniforms, they do so knowing that they may find themselves in harm's way. The deputy involved is still dealing with the gravity of the incident," he said.
Munks said his office's investigation also showed Trieu followed official policies and procedures when he shot Serrano-Garcia.
After initially being put on administrative leave following the fatal shooting, the deputy has returned to work in the office's corrections division, Munks said.
He said his office is planning a community meeting to discuss the outcome of the investigation into the shooting.
The office will introduce a new pilot program meant to coordinate efforts between the county Sheriff's Office and San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services to deal with mental health crises, sheriff's officials said.