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Local Chinese Americans raise questions following Little Italy officer-involved shooting

Little Italy OIS Dr. Yan Li
Posted at 4:54 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 22:31:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Questions continue to surround an officer-involved shooting last month in Little Italy. It happened after sheriff's deputies tried to serve an eviction notice.

The woman who was killed, Dr. Yan Li, stabbed an officer before she was shot.

But as ABC 10News found out --the local Chinese American community says she suffered from mental illness and believes the situation should have been handled differently.

Body camera footage released by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department shows a deputy serve Dr. Yan Li with an eviction notice. Within seconds he notices she's holding a knife.

"Put the knife down or I'm going to [expletive] shoot. Put your knife down. Put the [expletive] knife down."

Li closes the door and at that point, the deputy calls for backup.

Law enforcement says building management told them Li had threatened a maintenance crew with a knife that day before.

Eventually, deputies and officers force their way in, saying at that point Li was considered a threat to public safety.

When they saw Li still armed with a knife, they used less-lethal rounds. Li charged, stabbing one officer. Law enforcement opened fire, killing Li.

"We ask the question why did this happen? Did Dr. Li have to die?"

Sunny Rickard is president of the Alliance of Chinese Americans branch in San Diego.

They held a news conference Thursday demanding more transparency and questioning the actions of law enforcement.

They say Li suffered from mental illness.

The group released a letter they say was written by a neighbor, who claims he tried to intervene that day and tell law enforcement that they needed mental health professionals on the scene.

"Why did police and deputies force their way into Dr. Li's residence and force a confrontation which led to her death before a mental health expert could arrive on scene?," said Rickard.

ABC 10News has repeatedly tried to ask the sheriff's department whether the psychiatric emergency response team, known as PERT, was called to the scene, but has not received an answer.

The group is asking for several things, including an independent investigation into the shooting and for the law enforcement agencies involved to host a town hall meeting about the incident.

The ACA tells ABC 10News they've reached out to the sheriff's department and the San Diego police department but received no response.

The San Diego Police Department sent 10News the following statement:

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

The investigation and review process for an officer-involved shooting 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 any criminal liability for their actions. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will be assisting in the investigation and will conduct an administrative investigation into their deputies’ discharge of their firearms.  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. The investigations will be reviewed by the county's Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) and the City of San Diego's independent Commission on Police Practices (CPP).