The San Diego Union-Tribune
MARCH 11, 2022 9:41 PM PT

LITTLE ITALY — Sheriff’s officials on Friday released footage of deputies and a police officer shooting and killing a woman last week inside a Little Italy condo complex after she stabbed a police officer during the service of an eviction notice.

The videos show the first deputy almost immediately drawing his gun and threatening to shoot 47-year-old Yan Li when he sees her holding the knife. Later, deputies and officers barge into her unit, and after she charges at them with the blade, several of them shoot her in her doorway as their colleagues fall over each other in the crowded hallway.

A civil rights attorney who viewed the footage said the shooting appeared to be lawful because the woman had attacked the officers and deputies, but questioned and criticized the actions of the law enforcement personnel in the leadup to the shooting.

The heavily edited video released by the Sheriff’s Department depicts events that occurred March 3 at the Acqua Vista Condominiums on West Beech Street near State Street. It starts with body-worn camera footage from Deputy Jason Bunch, who knocks on the door and rings a doorbell at Li’s fifth-floor condo. She opens the door, and Bunch confirms her name and hands her paperwork.

“Here’s a notice to evict,” he says.

“What?” she replies, taking the paperwork.

“Here’s your notice for …” Bunch starts to say when he suddenly notices Li holding a large butcher knife or meat cleaver in her right hand, down at her side.

Bunch points at the knife, then draws his handgun as he says: “Put the knife down right now or I’m gonna (expletive) shoot.” He continues to repeat the order, yelling: “Put the knife down. Put the (expletive) knife down,” according to the video.

Li shouts back for him to put his gun down. “How could I know you are not intruder?” she asks him.

Bunch keeps her at gunpoint, yelling for her to put the weapon down, alternating between calling it a knife and a gun.

“Put the gun down, ma’am, I’m gonna shoot you. Put the (expletive) gun down,” he yells.

Sheriff’s officials said in the video that Li accused Bunch of being an “imposter.” She can be heard yelling “Call the police.”

Bunch tells Li several more times to drop the knife, warning that he’ll shoot her if she comes at him. Li responds that she’s not afraid and that she’s not coming at him. Then she accuses him of being a fake police officer and asks where his badge is before throwing the paperwork into the hallway and slamming the door.

The video resumes about eight minutes later when Bunch’s supervisor arrives and Li can be heard shouting from behind the closed door. Then another 40 minutes later, the video resumes with deputies and San Diego police officers with dogs preparing to enter Li’s unit.

According to police and sheriff’s officials, while waiting on the backup personnel, deputies learned that the previous day, Li had threatened the complex’s manager and a maintenance worker with a knife.

“Based on this reported crime, there was a threat to public safety,” the video says. “This is also probable cause to arrest Li for assault with a deadly weapon.”

Neither sheriff’s officials nor San Diego police responded to questions Friday evening about whether the condo complex personnel had reported the alleged knife threat earlier, nor whether law enforcement had sought a warrant — or needed one — to enter Li’s apartment.

Videos from several different officers and deputies’ body-worn cameras show them entering the condo with a key. The first deputies through the door are holding less-lethal weapons as they announce themselves as members of the Sheriff’s Department.

In the video, Li is behind a bedroom door as deputies order her to come out with her hands up and dogs bark in the background. Li is shouting back and still holding the knife, and someone yells “bean bag” twice and the sound of that weapon being fired rings out several times.

The less-lethal rounds appear ineffective as Li charges from the bedroom with the knife in her hand. A chaotic scene unfolds as the deputies and officers backpedal into the hallway, with three of them falling to the ground and over each other as Li emerges with the knife pointed in front of her.

None of the videos released by officials clearly show the officer being stabbed, but after Li is shot and falls face forward onto the ground, an officer can be heard saying he’s been stabbed.

Police won’t identify the wounded officer, who was stabbed in the chest. He was treated at UC San Diego Medical Center and released later that day.

Police on Wednesday identified the four lawmen who opened fire as sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Nickel, deputies Javier Medina and David Williams and police Officer Rogelio Medina. Each has worked for their respective department between 13 and 29 years.

“This is just a classic example of unnecessary escalation of a conflict resulting in a lawful shooting,” John Carpenter, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney, said Friday. “The (deputy’s) job was done, he’s a process server … you serve the process and then leave.”

Carpenter also questioned whether the alleged threat against the complex employees the previous day was a lawful basis to enter the condo.

“That’s information they learned after the service of (the eviction notice) was complete,” Carpenter said. “They hadn’t gone there to investigate an ongoing call for an assault with a knife.”

Carpenter said the video showed him “a woman in crisis who is losing her home and who is being aggravated by the situation unnecessarily by law enforcement.”

Neither sheriff’s officials nor the San Diego police homicide lieutenant whose unit is investigating the shooting responded to questions about the incident and the criticism Friday.

Li is the fourth person shot — three of them fatally — by police or deputies in the region this year.

Three San Diego police officers shot and killed Isaac Andrade, 21, following a liquor store robbery in Lincoln Heights Jan. 10. He was armed with a gun and a knife.

On Feb. 16, two deputies opened fire during a traffic stop in El Cajon, injuring Erik Talavera, 31. Videos showed Talavera appeared to be armed with a knife.

Three days later, a sheriff’s detective shot and killed Mizael Corrales, 31, in the parking lot of an Otay Mesa strip mall. Authorities said Corrales was behind the wheel of a stolen SUV when he rammed backwards into several vehicles, knocking two sheriff’s deputies to the ground.

Staff writer Teri Figueroa contributed to this story.