San Diego police say Yan Li, 47, was shot and killed after stabbing a K9 officer. Li’s supporters say she had mental health issues.

SAN DIEGO — A group of Chinese community activists are protesting an officer and deputy involving the shooting of Yan Li in Little Italy.

They are calling for an independent investigation and better de-escalation tactics involving mental health issues.

On March 3, after police officers broke into her home while they were signing an eviction notice, Li stabbed one of them.

She was shot and killed. The officer recovered.

The San Diego Chinese American Alliance is protesting the shooting death of Yan Li, PhD, involving an officer. They say that although she showed a weapon, her death could have been avoided.

Body camera video released by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department shows Deputy Jason Bunch serving Li with an eviction notice. The deputy tells Li to put the knife down or he will shoot (expletive).

“Is that kind of language necessary, it definitely made the situation worse. She is already going through a psychological, emotional and stressful time right now,” said Sunny Rickard, president of the Alliance of Chinese Americans of San Diego.

She says officers had been called to the Lis’ home in the past for mental health issues.

“We are deeply saddened and once again ask the question why did this happen, did Dr Li have to die?” Rickard said.

The body camera video shows Li holding a knife, accusing Deputy Bunch of being a fake cop, refusing his orders and throwing him the eviction notice and slamming the door.

“She went home, locked her door. It no longer appears, no longer poses any imminent threat, therefore no justification for escalating the situation,” Rickard said.

The entire incident lasted approximately 45 minutes, but the San Diego Sheriff’s Department only released a condensed 10-minute video version.

The San Diego police were called in for help.

That night, SDPD Homicide Lt. Matt Dobbs said there had been a prior incident with Li the day before the shooting.

“One of the resort employees said the same woman had threatened a maintenance man with a knife the day before,” Dobbs said.

The police had yet to serve the notice. They went up to Li’s apartment and entered with a manager’s key.

The video shows Li still holding the knife and an officer and deputy pulling beanbags at him. It was then that Li charged forward with a knife and stabbed the handler, prompting 3 deputies and a canine officer to open fire.

When the video was released, CBS 8 spoke with retired SDPD SWAT commander Ray Shay, who said shooting someone was a last resort.

“Unfortunately, at this point MPs are out of options,” Shay said.

Li’s supporters say law enforcement moved too quickly. The Psychological Emergency Response Team (PERT) was called, but officers entered the apartment before they arrived.

Now the Alliance is calling for an independent investigation.

“Mental health is not a crime and should not be treated as a crime,” Rickard said.


A spokesperson for the SDPD released a statement in response to the Alliance press conference:

“We understand that the community has questions and concerns regarding the law enforcement shooting involving Dr. Li. This is an active investigation.

The process of investigating and reviewing a shooting involving an officer is extremely thorough. When the Homicide Unit completes its investigation, it will be reviewed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to determine if the officers bear criminal responsibility for their actions. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will participate in the investigation and conduct an administrative investigation into their deputies’ firearms discharge. The San Diego Police Internal Affairs Unit will conduct an internal investigation into the actions of the San Diego police officer. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office will also be monitoring the investigation. Investigations will be reviewed by the County Citizens Act Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) and the City of San Diego Independent Commission on Policing Practices (IPC).

Once San Diego Police Department homicide units complete their investigation, they will be turned over to the das office to determine whether or not this was a justified shooting.

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