WATERLOO, Iowa -- A police officer who shot and paralyzed a man in downtown Waterloo in April acted legally because the target appeared to be chasing a deputy with a shotgun, a prosecutor ruled Friday.
Waterloo police Officer C.J. Nichols did not know that the long, dark weapon carried by Marcelino Alvarez-Victoriano was a pellet gun until after Nichols shot him, Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams said.
Videos from the officer's body camera and two deputies' squad cars showed the 44-year-old Alvarez-Victoriano chasing Black Hawk County Deputy Blake Dodd with what appeared to be a firearm, the prosecutor said.
“No reasonable officer would have been able to determine that the weapon was an air rifle. Any objective person in Officer Nichols’ position would feel the need to use deadly force,” Williams wrote in a review released Friday that cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.
Williams released several still photos showing Alvarez-Victoriano pursuing Dodd with the weapon in his hand before Nichols shot him in the back shortly after arriving on the scene.
Alvarez-Victoriano spent weeks in the hospital and is paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury, unable to work and relying on friends for care and housing. A bullet remains lodged in his back.
Alvarez-Victoriano was charged in April with misdemeanors for allegedly threatening deputies during the encounter, and Williams said Friday that he intends to pursue those charges. Investigators haven't arrested him since his July 10 release from the hospital because of the care his paralysis would require.
Alvarez-Victoriano filed a lawsuit last month alleging that the shooting amounted to excessive force and that the Waterloo Police Department has long had “deficient policies and practices” surrounding the use of force. The lawsuit noted that few details of the incident had been released to the public even months after it occurred.
The incident began when a citizen called 911 to report a man walking with a long gun toward downtown Waterloo. Dodd was the first to arrive on the scene and saw Alvarez-Victoriano and the weapon sitting on a nearby cement wall, the report said.
Alvarez-Victoriano picked up the weapon and started walking toward Dodd, who went to the rear of his vehicle to take cover. Dodd could not understand what Alvarez-Victoriano, who speaks Spanish, was saying and yelled at him to put the gun down, the report said.
Arriving Deputy Matt Isley tried to hit Alvarez-Victoriano with his squad car, but only struck him with his side mirror. Nichols arrived shortly thereafter and believed officers were going to be in a “gun fight" after seeing the weapon, the report said.
Nichols fired one shot through the windshield of his vehicle that struck Alvarez-Victoriano and caused him to fall. He fired additional shots as Alvarez-Victoriano appeared to be getting up before Dodd was able to kick the weapon away from him, the report said.