Law enforcement patrol
Sheriff deputy’s patch. Photo credit: OnScene.TV

Authorities Wednesday publicly identified a patrolman who shot a gun-wielding 77-year-old man outside a Vista church last weekend.

Deputy Justin Williams, who has been employed by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for about three years, opened fire on the septuagenarian in a parking lot at Iglesia Ni Cristo Church of Christ in the 1400 block of Calle Jules on Sunday afternoon, according to the San Diego Police Department, which investigates shootings involving personnel with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The events that led to the law enforcement gunfire began about 12:30 p.m., when a 911 caller reported that a man was at the house of worship just north of East Bobier Drive, holding a handgun to his head, SDPD Lt. Steve Shebloski said.

When deputies arrived, they learned that members of the congregation were inside the church with the seemingly suicidal man, whose name has not been released. As the patrol personnel were trying to get more information about the situation, he walked outside carrying a gun, according to police.

“They immediately began giving the (man) commands to drop the firearm, but (he) ignored their commands and walked into the parking lot and toward the deputies,” Shebloski said. “The deputies backed up and continued to give (him) commands, but unfortunately (he) ignored their commands and continued advancing into the parking lot.”

At that point, Williams fired a single round from his service rifle, wounding the man in both legs, police said.

Deputies rendered first aid, including the application of tourniquets, prior to the arrival of paramedics, who took the man to a trauma center. The man, who remained hospitalized Wednesday, was expected to survive, officials said.

Authorities have yet to decide whether the wounded man will face criminal liability over his encounter with sheriff’s personnel.

“This incident is under review with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if any charges will be filed against the suspect in this case,” the lieutenant said.

In addition to San Diego police, the Sheriff’s Department and the advisory county Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board will look into whether the shooting was a legally justified use of force.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. May 10, 2023

– City News Service