SLOPD was warned repeatedly about gunman’s mental illness

Edward Zamora Giron

Friends, family and neighbors of the gunman who shot and killed Detective Luca Benedetti and wounded another officer warned the San Luis Obispo Police Department repeatedly over months prior to the fatal shooting that the suspect was mentally ill. [Tribune]

The warnings given to the police department contradict what San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a press conference following the fatal shooting. Local law enforcement had no record of Edward Zamora Giron being mentally ill, Parkinson said. 

On May 10, six officers attempted to serve a search warrant at Giron’s San Luis Obispo apartment. When Giron did not respond to police, officers broke down the door of the apartment and found him lying in wait. 

A shootout ensued, during which Giron shot and killed Benedetti. Detective Steve Orozco was shot multiple times but survived. Giron died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and other injuries from being struck by the officers’ return fire. 

Last June and July, Giron lost his jobs at The Pad Climbing in SLO and the San Luis Obispo Costco. As a result of the pandemic and losing his jobs, Giron became isolated and depressed, his mother said.

On July 10, 2020, Giron was arrested in in Santa Barbara for unauthorized entry of a dwelling, disorderly conduct and possession of stolen property, according to court records.

The following day, a female friend of Giron’s contacted SLOPD and told an officer she wanted to open a line of communication about Giron. The woman said Giron told her on the phone he entered an unlocked house looking for friends and took a bottle of shampoo. Giron entered a second house and was arrested after security guards confronted him, the woman told the officer.

Detective Luca Benedetti

In her conversation with the officer, the woman said Giron had firearms. The officer said there was no record of him owning registered firearms, she said.

The woman responded, saying then he has unregistered firearms. The officer reportedly told her police did not want to escalate the situation.

Additionally, the woman provided police with screenshots of Giron’s Instagram stories and livestream following his night in jail.

“I have been constantly harassed by police for the last week for every single good thing I’ve tried to do for everyone… I haven’t been sleeping… I’ve been more than just at a loss entirely as to what to do and where I should go… HELP!!” Giron wrote in one of the Instagram stories. 

Additionally, Giron wrote on Instagram about getting arrested and being scared and needing help. He also claimed law enforcement took his shoes, hat, IDs, video footage, house keys, car keys and truck.

Three days later, the woman emailed the SLOPD officer, saying Giron’s behavior had become much more volatile and violent, and Giron had become paranoid and developed an unreasonable distrust of the law. The woman stated in the email, it only takes a split second for things to go wrong. 

Shelby Urban, a neighbor of Giron’s, described a shift in his personality. Her boyfriend and she tried calling SLOPD about Giron about six times, Urban said.

Urban said she requested a welfare check when she awoke to Giron standing on his balcony early in the morning, yelling, “Nobody listens to me, nobody loves me.”

Police would come, Giron would say he was fine and officers would leave. That would make Giron more mad, Urban said. 

On Oct. 18, 2020, Giron swam out to sea in Avila Beach. Emergency personnel rescued him.

Shortly later, Giron went missing for a few weeks, said Caroline Wichman, Giron’s mother. Wichman called SLOPD multiple times during that period, pleading for law enforcement help every other day, she said. 

At one point, Giron told his mother he went to Mexico, where he was beaten up and his truck was stolen. Wichman told police over and over about her son’s mental illness, she said. 

In response to a missing person report, a SLOPD officer left a voicemail saying another agency located Giron, who was okay and doing well.

After New Year’s 2021, Giron stopped communicating with his relatives, Wichman said.

Wichman said Giron’s family plans to hire a private investigator to gather information about the case, and the family plans to sue SLOPD over how the search was handled. Officers should not have broken down her son’s door. Rather, they should have asked the manager’s office for a key and should have had a social worker with them, Wichman said. 

SLO public communications manager Whitney Szentesi said in a statement, when officers served the warrant, SLOPD was aware of past contacts with Giron. None of the contacts were violent in nature, nor did they result in an involuntary mental health hold. A pre-warrant check revealed Giron had no firearms registered to him, Szentesi said.