A La Habra police officer who shot and killed a man outside the city’s police station last year was justified in using deadly force, prosecutors said, releasing video of the deadly gunfight.
The Orange County district attorney’s office found “no evidence of criminal culpability” for Officer Abigail Fox, according to a Nov. 18 letter from prosecutors to Police Chief Adam Foster, which was released Monday.
The shooting occurred Aug. 6, 2021, after a woman who was being followed by another driver called 911 and drove to the police station. She was on the northbound 5 Freeway around 6:25 p.m. when a dark blue 1998 Toyota Camry started tailgating her, following her each time she changed lanes and onto the 57 Freeway.
After calling and texting her mother and a friend, the woman called 911 at 7:03 p.m. and told the dispatcher that she was scared and planned on pulling up in front of the La Habra Police Department headquarters on Euclid Street.
There, the woman stayed on the phone with the dispatcher while the Toyota’s driver, later identified as 22-year-old Matthew-Tuan Anh Tran, got out of his car and tried to open the station’s front doors.
It was still daylight when two officers — Fox and Officer Mark Milward — arrived around 7:08 p.m.
Fox spoke with the woman while Milward went to the front to speak with Tran, who told the officer he was at the station to see someone.
Milward asked Tran if he was “involved” with either of the cars parked in front of the station and pointed at the Toyota and the 911 caller’s car.
Tran said he wasn’t, and Milward said he’d be with Tran in a minute, then turned his back and walked away.
Seconds later, “Tran removed a firearm from his waist belt, cocked it, and aimed it directly at Officer Milward’s back,” the letter said.
Milward’s body camera captured the encounter in footage released Monday.
Fox yells out, “Hey, hey, hey,” as Milward turns around, and Tran can be seen the pointing the gun at the officer and firing at least one shot. Milward falls to the ground as several more gunshots are heard.
Fox asks whether Milward is OK. He replies, “No,” later saying that he was shot in the chest.
Investigators found that Tran fired two shots at Milward, one of which pierced his body armor and hit him in the chest, according to the letter. Milward would recover from the injury.
Fox fired five shots at Tran, one of which hit him in the head, according to the letter.
“Officer Fox did not have time to de-escalate the situation or use less-lethal force because Tran was already firing at Officer Milward,” the letter stated.
After checking on Milward, Fox put out a radio call for help and that a suspect and officer were down.
Paramedics declared Tran dead at the scene around 7:26 p.m., the letter said.
After an autopsy Aug. 10, a medical examiner found that Tran had been shot three times — in the head, body and right thigh. A toxicological examination found THC, methamphetamine and other related substances in Tran’s blood.