SANTA CRUZ (BCN) — A 32-year-old man fatally shot by a police officer in Santa Cruz earlier this week had a prior encounter with law enforcement days before he died, police said on Wednesday.
Sean Arlt, 32, of Santa Cruz, was shot and killed at a home on Chace Street where he allegedly threatened to kill everyone inside and tried to attack officers with a rake on Sunday, police said.
On Oct. 11, officers attempted to detain Arlt, who was violent and ended up in a struggle with them, police said.
The officers had to subdue Arlt before they placed him in custody and he was later sent to a mental health professional, according to police.
The four officers who responded to the home on Sunday had been trained in the past year on Santa Cruz County’s mental health response protocol in addition to crisis communication and de-escalation techniques
used when they were faced with Arlt, police said.
Two of the officers were with the Police Department’s crisis negotiation team, according to police.
An autopsy performed Tuesday on Arlt classified his death a homicide from gunshot wounds to his head and chest, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.
The 32-year-old man’s toxicology results are pending, sheriff’s official said.
On Sunday around 3:30 a.m., officers were called to the same home on a report of someone attempting to break into the residence occupied by a family and pounding on the front door, police said.
The caller called dispatch a second time to alert authorities of their concern for a female tenant living in a detached garage at the home and the suspect’s death threats, then quickly hung up, according to police.
The investigation showed the caller ended the conversation because he armed himself with a large frying pan to use as protection against the suspect, later identified as Arlt, police said.
Four officers responded to the scene where they found Arlt in a small yard between the back door and fence accessible from Getchell Street, according to police.
The officers demanded Arlt step out of the backyard, but he didn’t immediately follow their orders, police said.
A short time later, Arlt exited the backyard with a metal bow rake that he continued to hold despite officers’ requests to drop it, according to police.
The rake was 5 feet long, had a metal head with 14 metal tines and a wooden handle, police said.
The 32-year-old man quickly walked to the officers with the rake and appeared he was ready to swing it at them, police said.
The four officers backed away and two of them deployed Taser stun guns a total of three times at Arlt, but the suspect continued to advance toward them, police said.
The officers backed up to their parked cars and were within 10 feet of Arlt before one of them fired two shots at him, according to police.
The officers provided aid to Arlt, who continued to fight with them until emergency medical crews reached the scene, police said.
An audio recording from one of the responding officers showed Arlt was told to drop the rake at least eight times, according to police.
The recording also indicated the events after Arlt came out of the backyard lasted 20 seconds, police said.
A student on a ride-along with one of the officers was interviewed by investigators and gave an account consistent with what the officers told them, according to police.
The four involved officers have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is underway in the shooting, police said.
“The Police Department is communicating with the suspect’s family and offered them support through our full time Victim Advocate. We are committed to supporting and communicating with the family throughout this investigation,” police Chief Kevin Vogel said in a statement Monday.
“This is a very rare occurrence in our City and we are treating it seriously, with particular attention to the handling of the investigation,”
Mayor Cynthia Mathews said in a statement Monday.
The Police Department called on the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the shooting.
A parallel independent criminal investigation and internal administrative investigation will also take place, police said.
Once completed, the internal investigation will be reviewed by the city’s independent police auditor and City Council’s Public Safety Committee.