DA clears cops who killed gunman during wildfire evacuation

Four officers who fatally shot a man on methamphetamine at a California wildfire evacuation checkpoint will not face charges, officials said this week.

The decision was announced on Tuesday along with the findings of a report into the death of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, 35, who was killed on June 24, 2021, after pointing a loaded gun at officers at a checkpoint in the outside of Big Springs in Siskiyou County, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Hawj, whose truck was filled with 132 pounds of pot, had an out-of-state arrest warrant at the time and rammed his truck towards officers at the checkpoint, where evacuations were underway as a fire sparked by lightning threatened thousands of illegal marijuana farms, according to a nine-page letter from Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.

An officer just six feet from Hawj’s .45 caliber handgun told investigators it was the ‘darkest hole’ he had ever seen in his life, according to the letter releasing the cops.

Cops then opened fire, prompting Hawj’s truck to swerve forward and nearly run over an officer before slamming into a game warden’s vehicle, Andrus said.

Hawj was found with methamphetamine and amphetamines in his system.
    photograph of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife vehicle that the deceased hit with his truck in the middle of the exchange in question.
Hawj rammed a game warden’s vehicle with his van.
Siskiyou County Attorney’s Office

Investigators then found the loaded handgun inside Hawj’s pickup truck, along with two assault rifles in the backseat, one of which had a silencer. He also had marijuana worth up to $175,000 in large plastic bins, according to the district attorney.

Hawj died of three gunshot wounds to the head. He also had methamphetamine and amphetamines in his system, according to an autopsy.

Hawj was wanted in Colorado, where court records show he was charged with marijuana and firearms crimes, according to the Sacramento Bee.

    A photo of the cannabis found in the bed of the deceased's truck after the shooting
Hawj’s truck was loaded with 132 pounds of marijuana.
Siskiyou County Attorney’s Office
A photograph of the driver's seat area of ​​the deceased's vehicle showing bullet holes in the truck's windshield.
The 35-year-old was shot dead after raising a loaded weapon towards officers.
Siskiyou County Attorney’s Office

The deadly shooting led to accusations of excessive force and the fact that it was part of a racially motivated campaign to rid the area of ​​illegal pot farms and the Asian Americans who operated them.

But Andrus determined that the actions of Hawj, of Kansas City, Kansas, only triggered the shooting.

“He had a business culture in the back of his truck that he was apparently prepared to defend,” Andrus wrote in the nine-page letter. “He may have had the misunderstanding that residents were funneled into an area where they would be wanted for marijuana. He would have been wrong.