Officer-involved shootings often involve meth says coroner

FRESNO, Calif.

/*Manuel Armenta*/ had high levels of meth in his system at the time of his death earlier this month. "The unfortunate problem is that people on meth often conduct themselves in a threatening way," said Fresno County Coroner, Dr. David Hadden.

According to the Fresno Police Department, an officer opened fire on Armenta after an attempted carjacking. Police say the 30-year-old suspect was armed with a sharpened screwdriver as he approached the officer. Armenta sustained two gunshot wounds to the upper body with a possible graze wound to the neck. "It just adds another piece to the overall investigation. We had suspicions at the beginning of the onset of drugs," said Lt. Mark Salazar with the Fresno Police Department.

The Coroner says people on meth behave in erratic ways -- creating a dangerous situation for responding law enforcement. "If these people weren't on the drugs, they could respond appropriately to the commands of law enforcement saying put the weapon down or drop the gun," said Hadden.

But a few people who say they witnessed the shooting told Action News Armenta was not a threat to the officer. "In this case, we have four witnesses who state that [the suspect] wasn't acting erratically -- that he was trying to do what the officer told him to do," said Gerald Schwab. Schwab is the attorney representing Armenta's widow in a possible wrongful-death lawsuit against the police department. "Just the fact that someone was under the influence of drugs does not negate the officer being negligent. It just means that it's one of many factors taken into consideration -- but it's how that drug affects him," said Schwab.

The altered behavior of meth users not only places them at risk but others as well -- including officers who have to think quickly in situations that can mean life or death.

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