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DA declines charges for deputies in fatal shooting of shotgun-wielding woman

Two deputies were justified in using force against a shotgun-wielding woman in Half Moon Bay in May, the San Mateo County district attorney said Friday.

Eureka resident Sandra Harmon, 56, died at 8:40 p.m. in an ambulance en route to Stanford Hospital following a gun battle with a San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputy in the parking lot of the Pasta Moon Ristorante and Bar at 845 Main St.

Deputies David Dominguez and John Baba were justified in firing their weapons during an exchange of gunfire at around 8 p.m., according to a report released Friday by District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe.

Dominguez said in the report:

“Firing my firearm was the only option I had.”

Events leading up to the shooting began at 7:24 p.m. May 5 when a Half Moon Bay resident called 911 to report a woman with a rifle and a bottle of wine walking past her home on Main Street.

The report says the resident told the dispatcher that the woman said:

“(Y)ou better take precautions because there’s going to be a race war tonight.”

Dominguez went to the restaurant and parked his vehicle parallel to the RV. He walked toward the RV and said he was from the sheriff’s office.

Someone inside said, “It’s the Sheriff,” according to the report.

Harmon opened the door, pointed her index finger at Dominguez and swore at him.

Dominguez tried to calm Harmon down by telling her he just wanted to talk to her, but she went back into the RV and came out with a shotgun. She pointed the gun at Dominguez, and he took cover behind his patrol vehicle.

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Surveillance photo of Sandra Harmon, 56, of Eureka captured prior to an incident where she was fatally shot by two sheriff’s deputies on May 5, 2020.

The report said Harmon continued swearing and moved toward the deputy. Dominguez made eye contact with Harmon and she fired. He did not see her fire though because he ducked behind his vehicle.

Dominguez drew his pistol, peeked around the vehicle and when Harmon pointed the shotgun at him again, he fired three or four shots, according to the report.

He wasn’t sure if any bullets hit her. Harmon walked behind the RV and when she emerged, she pointed her gun where Dominguez had originally taken cover.

Dominguez yelled at her to drop the gun, but she again pointed it at him. Dominguez fired four to six more rounds at Harmon. She flinched, her shoulders shrugged, and she dropped the gun, the report says.

Harmon walked backwards away from Dominguez and he walked out from behind his vehicle. Dominguez pointed his gun at Harmon and told her to “Get on the ground, get on the ground!” but she did not, according to the report.

She stepped away from the shotgun and then ran toward it and bent down to pick it up. Dominguez fired four more bullets and Baba also fired two or more shots, the report said.

A third deputy handcuffed Harmon and he and firefighters began giving her first aid. She was not breathing. A fourth deputy removed the handcuffs to help paramedics treat her.

The district attorney also said a toxicology report showed Harmon had methamphetamine, amphetamine, cannabis, prescription medication for depression and alcohol in her system.

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