Use of deadly force by Eugene officer was lawful, DA says

According to the Lane County district attorney Eliborio Rodrigues was shot killed by a Eugene police officer on Nov. 30

Posted: Dec 13, 2019 7:17 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2019 6:18 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The use of deadly force by a Eugene police officer on Nov. 30 was lawful, the Lane County District Attorney said Friday in a press conference.

Officer Samuel Tykol shot Eliborio Rodrigues Jr., 40, in the 1400 block of Acacia Avenue on Nov. 30.

Based on the evidence and an investigation into the shooting, the use of deadly force was "lawful under the circumstances of fighting for his life," Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow said.

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Tykol was treated for injuries and released from the hospital following the incident and Rodrigues received emergency care but was pronounced dead. A preliminary drug screening of Rodrigues showed positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine, opioids and THC, Perlow said.

The incident began when Tykol was patrolling his regular area and observed Rodrigues walking down a dead-end street at 12:30 a.m. wearing dark clothing including a hood and a partial mask, Perlow said in a report. There had been a string of crimes in the area from car break-ins to burglaries.

"We expect our local law enforcement officers to keep our neighborhoods safe," Perlow wrote. "Officer Tykol was engaged in good police work making contact with Mr. Rodriguez under the circumstances of the late hour, dressed in dark clothing, walking in the street of a neighborhood."

Tykol reportedly passed Rodrigues, turned around and parked his vehicle to make contact with the man. He did not activate his lights, so the in-car video system did not activate, but his body camera was activated.

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Perlow said Rodrigues refused to provide identification or stop and grabbed some recycling from someone's bin and put it in a trash bag he was carrying.

The man's long-time partner told KEZI 9 News they had been collecting cans that night before splitting up.

Tykol requested non-emergency backup and told Rodrigues he wasn't free to go, but he continued to ignore the officer, Perlow said. The officer touched Rodrigues' arm and told him to sit on the ground, but Rodrigues objected to being touched and wanted Tykol to call his sergeant.

Then, backup with lights and siren was requested.

Rodrigues wanted to know if he was being detained and Tykol told him he was, which is when a struggle began, according to the report. At that point, Tykol told Rodrigues he was under arrest for interfering with a police officer. He attempted to get the man's hands behind his back, but the struggle continued.

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Pepper stray had no effect, Tykol reported, and Rodrigues began to fight and yell, knocking off Tykol's body camera in the process, and it shut off when it hit the pavement.

Tykol radioed at 12:34 that he was "fighting with one," Perlow said.

The officer managed to get on top of Rodrigues, with the man face down, and attempted to handcuff him, but Rodrigues got free and ran into the roadway. Tykol chased him, and his hand mic to his radio came off. That's when Tykol said Rodrigues began punching him. Sirens sounded in the distance.

Once more, Tykol tackled Rodrigues to the ground, Perlow said. The man continued to punch the officer and managed to get on top of him.

"Officer Tykol had lost control of the situation and was concerned that he would lose his pepper spray, his Taser or his gun," Perlow wrote.

Tykol used his Taser on Rodrigues, but it had no effect, and Rodrigues got ahold of it and started using it on Tykol, who reported that his legs became useless. They continued to struggle over the Taser. 

"Officer Tykol thought the subject was going to kill him," Perlow added.

Rodrigues continued to punch Tykol, according to the report.

Perlow said Tykol managed to slip out from Rodrigues far enough to grab his firearm, a Glock G45 nine millimeter and fired three times into Rodrigues' abdomen. Tykol then handcuffed Rodrigues.

Tykol used his radio to report shots fired.

Two officers then arrived and helped gain control of the injured man.

Aid was provided to Rodrigues until medics arrived on scene. He was declared dead at about 12:48 a.m.

The Inter-Agency Deadly Force Investigative Team arrived, and detectives contacted neighbors. There were no eye-witnesses, but some residents reported hearing yelling and gunshots.

Tykol suffered abrasion and bruising to his forehead and abrasion to his knees. 

Evidence corroborates Tykol's report, Perlow said, including the number of shots fired and that his Taser was deployed against himself, Perlow said.

Perlow added:

"I hope EPD, and other Lane County law enforcement agencies, will review this incident and their policies to make sure they are designed to promote the safety of our officers and citizens when an officer is alone and a citizen who has committed a pedestrian violation but no observed crime becomes uncooperative. And I hope our citizens will recognize that it is never safe to fight with law enforcement and, if you believe that a stop was unlawful, to raise that issue in a court of law."

Perlow thanked the agencies that assisted with the investigation.

Janis Gaines formed a long-time friendship with Rodrigues after first meeting him at a rental company where he worked. She later hired him for home projects as they got closer through the years. 

"The Eli I knew was just sweet and kind and respectful and funny," she said. "There's good and bad about everybody. And the Eli I knew, it's the positive things I chose to remember."

According to Gaines, he struggled with homelessness and eventually lost his children to the foster system. It was still a surprise to learn of the minutes before he was killed, especially with the drugs in his system.

"You question the decisions he made if that was in his bloodstream and affecting his thought processes," she said. "He made a fatal set of choices."

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