The Benton County district attorney has determined Corvallis Police Officer Daniel Granillo was justified in fatally shooting Jeffrey Appelt on April 3.
In a summary of his findings released Friday, District Attorney John Haroldson announced that his office has concluded Granillo was acting in accordance with Oregon law for the use of deadly force. The law, Haroldson noted, says someone is justified in use of deadly force if the person reasonably believes the target is “committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person” or is “using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person.”
Haroldson said he and senior members of his staff met with members of the Benton County Major Crimes Team on the day of the shooting to discuss how to proceed with an investigation of the use of deadly force by Granillo.
In addition to discussions with detectives and officers investigating the shooting, Haroldson said, his office reviewed police reports concerning Appelt prior to the April 3 incident, parole supervision records, medical and mental health records, video footage of events leading up to the shooting, footage of the shooting itself and other records.
Appelt, 32, of Philomath, was shot to death as he advanced on Granillo with a pocket knife in front of the Days Inn motel in Corvallis. Officers were originally called about a man attempting to enter rooms with a knife and acting aggressively. At least one officer had tried to subdue Appelt with a Taser that investigators believe made insufficient contact with Appelt's body to be effective.
Dashboard camera footage shows Granillo had just arrived on the scene when he exited his vehicle and Appelt began to approach. Granillo ordered Appelt to stop, and when Appelt got in close quarters with Granillo, the officer fatally shot him.
The investigation Haroldson based his conclusion on was conducted by Albany police, in accordance with state law, he said in response to questions from Mid-Valley Media.
“Those elements of an independent investigation … are standard practice,” Haroldson said. “Frankly, that’s something the agency itself advocates for — to be able to have that indepedence and transparency”
Now that the district attorney is done looking into the shooting, Haroldson said Corvallis police will conduct their own evaluation to see if anything can be gleaned about how to handle future incidents.
Haroldson said part of his evaluation included whether Granillo could have done something else to avoid killing Appelt, as state law requires an officer to make a reasonable attempt de-escalate before using lethal force. He said the situation escalated so quickly that Granillo was almost immediately in danger.
“When you have something that’s escalating at the pace that you see in the video, we’re really talking about seconds and at that point, in the midst of being attacked by a person in close proximity with a knife, your options become extremely limited,” Haroldson said.
Haroldson described Appelt’s death as tragic, despite reaching the conclusion that Granillo was justified in shooting him.
“Even when we face the worst circumstances and, though justified, a life is lost, these are always opportunities for the agencies to examine how they can do things better,” Haroldson said. “They can learn from this and this part of that process that is critical for us to always continue to improve the manner in which we carry out policing in our community.”
Haroldson said his office does not plan to release video footage of the shooting due to the graphic nature of the images. However, video showing the moments leading up to Appelt being shot has been released, as has dashboard camera footage that included an audio recording of the shooting.
K. Rambo can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter via @k_rambo_.