SANTA CRUZ (BCN) — A man shot and killed by Santa Cruz police Sunday morning after allegedly walking toward them threateningly with a rake was identified as 32-year-old Santa Cruz resident Sean Arlt.
At around 3:30 a.m., Santa Cruz emergency dispatchers received a call from a male resident of a home on Chace Street.
“Someone is trying to break into my house,” the caller said, according to police. “I want someone here in a hurry,” he said, adding that “everyone’s scared.” He said that he knew the man who was pounding on his front door.
The caller called a second time to ask, “Where are you? There’s someone at my door screaming about killing us.” He expressed concern for a female tenant living in the home’s detached garage, reiterated the suspect’s death threats and hung up on the dispatcher, police said.
The caller armed himself with a large frying pan to defend his family against Arlt.
As four police officers arrived at the home, they saw Arlt in a small backyard area between a fence and the back door, which is accessed from Getchell Street.
The officers ordered Arlt to leave the backyard, and he emerged from the yard armed with a five-foot, wooden-handled, metal bow rake, police said.
The officers ordered Arlt to drop the rake, but he ignored their repeated commands and walked toward them holding the rake over his head “as if he was preparing to swing it,” police said in a statement.
The confrontation was captured on an audio recorder by one of the police officers. Police said officers can be heard telling Arlt to drop the rake eight times during the 20-second confrontation.
The officers retreated from Arlt as he continued toward them with the rake over his head, police said. Two officers then tased Arlt, who continued to walk toward them. One of the officers then tased him a third time, but he continued toward them, police said.
The officers retreated until they were backed against parked cars as Arlt continued to walk toward them with the rake over his head. Once he was within 10 feet of the officers, one of them shot Arlt twice.
The officers immediately provided Arlt first aid as he continued to fight with them, police said. Emergency medical crews then responded, but Arlt was pronounced dead at the scene.
Because of the officer-involved shooting, the county’s Critical Incident Protocol was enacted, with the cooperation of the Santa Cruz Police Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, according to police.
Per protocol, the decision was made that the District Attorney’s Office would be the lead investigative agency. The protocol aims to ensure that the investigation remains independent, police said.
The police department will also conduct a separate administrative investigation. Per policy, the involved officers will be placed on administrative leave during the investigation, according to police.
“Two of the responding officers are part of the department’s Crisis Negotiation Team specially trained in de-escalation and addressing persons in crisis,” police spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke said in a statement.
“In spite of the officers’ attempts to communicate with Mr. Arlt, his behavior was erratic and he was not responsive,” Blaschke said.
Arlt was shot just 20 seconds after he emerged from the backyard, according to the audio recording, police said.
“Because of the rapid succession of events, the officers did not have the opportunity to dialogue and negotiate with Mr. Arlt,” Blaschke said in a statement.
A civilian student who was on a ride-along with the officers witnessed the confrontation, and gave an account of the incident that was consistent with the others, police said.