Helgar Rosas

Helgar Rosas

SIERRA VISTA — A Cochise County Sheriff’s deputy who shot a man in the chest after he responded to a domestic disturbance call at the individual’s residence was justified in using deadly force, the Cochise County Attorney’s Office has said.

In a letter dated Nov. 30, County Attorney Brian McIntyre stated that Deputy Rene Meza’s actions “were justified under Arizona law.”

McIntyre referenced footage from Meza’s bodycam which captured the entire 30-minute episode outside of suspect Helgar Rosas’ house in Hereford the afternoon of Nov. 1.

“As is readily apparent from the bodycam footage, Deputy Meza reasonably believed that he was facing the “use or imminent use of deadly physical force,” McIntyre said. “Indeed, on the 911 call which captured more of the audio of the encounter as the deputy arrived, Mr. Rosas appeared to want Deputy Meza to believe that as he can be heard yelling ‘I’ve been waiting for you mother(expletive)’ while grabbing the weapon and exiting the residence.

“It is worthy of note, the residents on scene can be heard advising Deputy Meza that ‘it’s not a real gun.’ Deputy Meza appears to give every opportunity to Mr. Rosas for him to drop the weapon; to include using vehicles to block the potential threat and giving consistent verbal commands. Deputy Meza was driving a fully marked patrol unit with his emergency lights activated and in full uniform. It is not possible that Mr. Rosas did not recognize him to be a law enforcement officer, despite his statement to the contrary.

“Further, Deputy Meza can not be expected to rely on these frantic statements during a chaotic encounter while being continuously threatened with what reasonably appears to be a firearm. It is not until Mr. Rosas has closed distance on Deputy Meza and raises the gun again directly at him that Deputy Meza discharges one round in self-defense. Under these circumstances, no reasonable person could conclude the shooting was not justified.”

Arizona law states: “C. The use of deadly force by a peace officer against another is justified pursuant to section 13-409 only when the peace officer reasonably believes that it is necessary: 1. To defend himself or a third person from what the peace officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.”

According to Sierra Vista Police detectives who investigated the deputy involved shooting — it is customary to have an outside agency investigate such matters — Meza arrived at a house on East Running Coyote Trail in Hereford after someone in the residence called for help regarding a disturbance. During the call, the person said of Rosas, “the man is crazy,” Sierra Vista Police later said.

When Meza drove up to the house, Rosas’ wife, Queenie Rosas, was standing outside the front door. Within seconds, Rosas emerged, a rifle in his hands.

Immediately, Meza ran for cover and yelled at Rosas several times to put the gun down. Rosas could be heard yelling expletives at Meza and egging him on to shoot him. Meza repeatedly changed positions, running from behind one vehicle to another to avoid the approaching Rosas.

Meza at one point yells, “Get away! Get away!” to no avail.

Queenie Rosas and an older woman later identified as Rosas’ mother could be heard screaming in the background.

Finally, the camera shows Rosas walking quickly toward a sport utility vehicle that Meza was crouching behind. Rosas stood a few feet from the deputy.

Rosas, pointing the weapon at Meza, then yelled out: “Kill me, mother (expletive)!”

At that point Meza shot Rosas in the chest, prompting the 40-year-old suspect to fall to his knees.

The weapon Rosas was wielding turned out to be an air rifle, Sierra Vista Police said later.

Rosas was airlifted to a Tucson hospital. He was arrested a couple of days after the shooting and has been charged with aggravated assault on an officer, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct/fighting.

Meza, who was not injured in the skirmish, had been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in such incidents.

Rosas’ case is pending in Cochise County Superior Court.