Just before deadly encounter
Security footage from May 5 appears to show Sandra Harmon carrying a gun on Main Street in the moments before she was shot and killed by San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies. Photo courtesy San Mateo County Sheriff's Office

The San Mateo County district attorney’s office said Friday morning it would not prosecute San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies for their role in the fatal shooting of a woman armed with a shotgun earlier this year.

Deputies killed Sandra Harmon the evening of May 5 in the parking lot behind Pasta Moon restaurant on Main Street. They were called to the scene on the report of a woman talking about a race war and carrying a long gun through downtown Half Moon Bay.

A narrative of the autopsy report included with the district attorney’s conclusion states that Harmon, a 56-year-old woman from Humboldt County, was shot eight times and that three of the wounds were fatal. The fatal gunshots entered her back and side, according to the report. She was also shot in her hip, arms and left leg. The shots were fired by deputies David Dominguez, who was the first to encounter Harmon, and John Baba, who arrived in the parking lot after the first shots were fired.

A toxicology report reportedly reveals that Harmon had traces of methamphetamine, amphetamine and cannabis in her system as well as prescription medication for depression. Her blood-alcohol level measured .09, the report states.

Both deputies had training in crisis intervention before the encounter. The report states that Dominguez had received such training in the last three months. The district attorney concludes that the deputies could not have de-escalated the situation that night.

“It bears noting that for de-escalation techniques to be effective, the opportunity for meaningful two-way communication must exist,” the report states, noting that Harmon reportedly did not comply with repeated instructions.

By California law, deputies may only use deadly force when they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect them or others.

“Given all of the circumstances, and the rapidity with which these events unfolded, the deputies acted reasonably in using deadly force to prevent her from retrieving the shotgun,” the report, signed by District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe states. “… There are never any winners in these conflicts, but I am grateful both the deputies and any members of the public nearby were not hurt.

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