fbpx AG won't prosecute Riverside County officers for fatal shooting
The Votes Are In!
2023 Readers' Choice is back, bigger and better than ever!
View Winners →
Vote for your favorite business!
2024 Readers' Choice is back, bigger and better than ever!
Start voting →
Subscribeto our newsletter to stay informed
  • Enter your phone number to be notified if you win
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Home / News / Crime / AG won’t prosecute Riverside County officers for fatal shooting

AG won’t prosecute Riverside County officers for fatal shooting

by Joe Taglieri
share with

Riverside County law enforcement officers who shot and killed an alleged fentanyl dealer in Hemet will not face criminal charges, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Thursday.

Joseph Thomas Tracy IV, 20, was killed Jan. 18, 2022, after he fled from authorities who were surveilling him for allegedly selling large amounts of fentanyl out of a motel in the 2600 block of West Florida Avenue.

According to a report by Bonta’s office detailing the deputy-involved shooting investigation, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Gang Impact Team “conducted surveillance on Mr. Tracy at a hotel in the City of Hemet. The team had information that Mr. Tracy was selling large quantities of fentanyl, was armed with a P80 handgun with a high-capacity magazine, and was staying at the hotel with an underage female. After attempts to lure Mr. Tracy out of the hotel room, Mr. Tracy saw the officers and fled.”

During the chase Detective Christopher Porrazzo, Deputy Joshua Smith, Detective Richard Kerr and Sgt. Arthur Paez shot Tracy “under the belief that he was armed and intended to shoot the officers,” according to the report. Tracy allegedly dropped his firearm “during the pursuit … and the officers were unaware Mr. Tracy had dropped the gun.”

Tracy was on active probation and subject to searches, according to the report.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a video released several months after the shooting that gang unit members surrounded the outside perimeter of the motel and waited for Tracy to emerge in order to avoid a possible confrontation inside the facility.

“Tracy ran from deputies and officers, who tried to stop him by deploying 40mm less-lethal munitions,” Bianco said. “Deputies and officers also gave him commands to stop running and to show his hands. Tracy continued to run away and ran between vehicles parked in the parking lot of the motel.”

Body-camera footage shown during Bianco’s video reveals one of the gang-unit investigators shouting, “He’s reaching, he’s reaching, he’s reaching. I don’t know what he’s reaching for.”

Another investigator shouts, “Get on the ground!”

As the foot chase continues, 40 mm rounds are fired quickly in Tracy’s direction. The video does not show him being wounded, but the sound of gunfire is clearly audible.

Paramedics pronounced Tracy dead at the scene a short time later. No law enforcement personnel were injured.

California Department of Justice investigators concluded that the evidence in this case did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted without the intent to defend themselves and others from what they reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office gang unit officers involved in Tracy’s shooting were from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police Department and Hemet Police Department.

“Loss of life is always a tragedy,” Bonta said in a statement. “We acknowledge that this incident posed challenges for all parties involved, including Mr. Tracy’s family, law enforcement, and the community. The California Department of Justice remains steadfast in our commitment to working together with all law enforcement partners to ensure an unbiased, transparent, and accountable legal system for every resident of California. AB 1506 is a critical transparency and accountability tool in our efforts to advance  a safer California for all.”  

Under the state law known as AB 1506, the California Justice Department must investigate all incidents of officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state.

The state’s report on the shooting is available at the Attorney General’s Office website.

Updated June 21, 2024, 1:08 p.m.

More from Crime

Skip to content