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Authorities ID SDPD canine officer who fatally shot man in City Heights

The San Diego police officer who fatally shot a man last week inside a City Heights home was identified Thursday as a canine-unit officer who has worked for the Police Department for more than nine years.

Officer Mitchel Tani shot and killed Scholar Wang, 48, on Aug. 23 inside Wang’s home, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Chris Steffen.

Officers were sent to the home after he reportedly attacked his two aunts with a piece of wood, possibly from a broken chair, Steffen said in a news release the day after the shooting. Officials initially described the object as a metal pole.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting because of a recently enacted countywide protocol meant to ensure that local law enforcement agencies don’t investigate shootings involving their own officers or deputies.

Neither the Sheriff’s Department nor the Police Department have released body-worn camera footage of the shooting.

San Diego police were sent around 8 a.m., on Aug. 23, to the home on Bridgeview Drive near White Sage Lane in the Fairmount Park area of City Heights, where Wang lived with his two aunts. Investigators believe Wang and the women were arguing before he allegedly assaulted them.

Paramedics took the two women, ages 79 and 73, to a hospital for treatment of cuts — one woman to her neck, the other to her face, Steffen wrote in a news release.

After speaking with the women, police officers surrounded the home and then went inside, where they found Wang had retreated into a bathroom, Steffen said. The officers tried to speak with Wang, who was barricaded inside, and then opened the door and sprayed him with pepper spray.

The officers then sent a police dog into the bathroom, where Wang was holding what investigators described as a sharp, rigid piece of metal about 2-feet long and 2-inches wide, according to Steffen.

Sheriff’s officials alleged that Wang tried to assault the dog and an officer with the object — the officer was uninjured and the dog sustained a superficial cut above one eye.

The officer, Tani, then shot and fatally wounded Wang, according to Steffen. Wang died at a hospital.

Sheriff’s officials have not said why the police officers entered the home and forced their way into the bathroom.

The shooting appeared to be the first Tani has been involved in as a San Diego officer. He spoke with CBS8 late last year after his police dog, Hondo, was stabbed twice during an incident near the Midway District.

In 2017, a man sued Tani, another officer and the city in U.S. District Court for allegedly using excessive force to arrest him during the 2016 Holiday Bowl at what was then Qualcomm Stadium. The lawsuit accused Tani and the other officer of excessive force, unlawful arrest, battery, negligence and false imprisonment.

The case was settled, according to an attorney for the plaintiff, who said he was unable to share details of the settlement.

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