Four officers who fatally shot a man high on methamphetamine at a wildfire evacuation checkpoint in California won’t face charges, officials said this week.
The decision was announced Tuesday along with the findings of a report into the death of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, 35, who was killed on June 24, 2021 after pointing a loaded gun at officers at a checkpoint outside Big Springs in Siskiyou County, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Hawj, whose truck was filled with 132 pounds of pot, had an out-of-state warrant for his arrest at the time and rammed his truck toward the officers at the checkpoint, where evacuations were underway as a lightning-sparked fire threatened thousands of illegal marijuana farms, according to a nine-page letter from Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
One officer just six feet away from Hawj’s .45-caliber handgun told investigators it was the “darkest hole” he had ever seen in his life, according to the letter clearing the cops.
The cops then opened fire, prompting Hawj’s truck to lurch forward and nearly smash into one officer before slamming into a game warden’s vehicle, Andrus said.
Investigators later found the loaded handgun inside Hawj’s pickup, as well as two assault rifles in the backseat, including one outfitted with a silencer. He also had marijuana valued at up to $175,000 inside large plastic totes, according to the district attorney.
Hawj died from three gunshot wounds to the head. He also had methamphetamine and amphetamines in his system, an autopsy found.
Hawj was wanted in Colorado, where court records indicated he had been charged with marijuana and firearms felonies, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The deadly shooting led to accusations of excessive force and that it was part of a racially motivated campaign to rid the area of illegal pot farms and the Asian Americans who tended to them.
But Andrus determined the actions of Hawj, of Kansas City, Kansas, solely sparked the shooting.
“He had a cash crop in the back of his truck that he apparently was willing to defend,” Andrus wrote in the nine-page letter. “He may have had the misapprehension that residents were being funneled into an area where they would be searched for marijuana. He would have been wrong.”