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DA: Non-fatal officer-involved shooting legally justified

Hesperia suspect with butcher knife shot twice by Barstow officer

BARSTOW• A Barstow Police officer was legally justified when he shot a man twice who was holding a butcher knife over his head, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office said in a report released Thursday.

Officer Andrew Buesa will face “no criminal liability” for shooting Eddie Varela, 32, once in the leg and once in the stomach during a domestic dispute, according to the DA’s report.

“It was reasonable to believe the immediate use of force was necessary in this situation when looking at all of the circumstances,” the report said, concluding “the shooting of Varela by Officer Buesa was justifiable in self-defense.”

In March, Buesa responded to the 1600 block of Sunrise Street after receiving a call of a domestic dispute between Varela, of Hesperia, and his ex-girlfriend’s family. Varela was reportedly drinking and breaking items in the house of his ex’s mother, Buesa testified during a preliminary hearing in September, when Varela was then facing charges of attempted murder.

Buesa testified he could see Varela through the window holding a butcher knife over his head and following a woman down the hallway. When no one would answer the door, Buesa kicked it open and saw Varela facing him from five to six feet away, the DA’s report said.

A witness, who had previously gone outside to meet the officer, said she heard the officer, who had his gun drawn, yell for Varela to drop the knife three times. When Varela didn’t comply and continued advancing toward Buesa, the officer shot him twice.

In a later interview, Varela claimed he was chopping a head of lettuce when he heard the pounding on the door, according to the report. He thought it was the new boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, who he had an earlier confrontation with, and went to the door with knife in hand to open it and was shot.

Attempted murder charges were dropped in September when Barstow Superior Court Judge John Gibson ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to hold Varela accountable to stand trial. In October, the DA’s office then dropped the lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon after Varela pleaded no contest to inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or other co-habitant during his pre-trial.

Varela was sentenced to 416 days in county jail and three years of supervised probation, though he received jail credits and was released out of custody. He was also later ordered to attend a year-long batterers’ treatment program, court records showed.

In September, Varela filed a claim against the city of Barstow seeking damages of more than $25,000 for serious injuries sustained from the shooting. The City’s Risk Management Authority (PERMA) reviewed the claim and it was rejected by operation of law on Nov. 5, according to city records.

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