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Deputy Cleared in Fatal Shooting of Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins

District attorney admits deputy could have averted tragedy, but finds no evidence of criminal action in the controversial killing. Loggins' daughter reportedly told investigators her dad was acting "berserk" because of a religious fast.

No criminal charges will be filed against the Orange County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed Marine Sgt. Manny Levi Loggins Jr. in front of his daughters in February, the district attorney's office announced Friday.

At a 1 p.m. press conference, officials questioned some of Deputy Darren Sandberg's actions, but said the controversial shooting appeared reasonable and justified, so they were closing their inquiry.

Assistant D.A. and homicide unit head Dan Wagner and Senior Deputy D.A. Susan Price admitted Sandberg could have averted tragedy if he acted differently, but said there wasn't enough evidence to prove criminal charges.

In hindsight, deputies could have removed Loggins' daughters from the vehicle before their father returned – or shot out the SUV's tires to stop him from leaving, Price and Wagner noted in their report, which can be read in full in the PDF file accompanying this article.

Investigators interviewed more than 12 witnesses, including Loggins' daughters, and reviewed video from Sandberg's patrol car. Wagner said the D.A. would not release the video to the public.

Their findings:

On Feb. 7, Sandberg was near the end of his shift and completing paperwork in a parking lot at San Clemente High School when he heard screeching tires, according to the D.A. He then heard a loud crash and drove over to find that Loggins had driven his white GMC Yukon through a metal gate, dragging half of it with his vehicle before stopping a few dozen yards away.

According to the D.A., Loggins, 31, immediately left the car and headed toward the athletic fields, which he and his family had been visiting daily for a month to work out and study the Bible.

Loggins left the keys in the ignition and the driver's door open. He walked away from the vehicle, ignoring commands from Sandberg, who had pulled his patrol car behind the SUV and turned on its lights, officials said.

After Loggins walked away, Sandberg went to the SUV to speak with Loggins' 14-year-old and 9-year-old daughters. The 14-year-old, who told investigators she rode in the front seat that morning, had climbed into the back to comfort her sister, who began crying after the crash.

According to the D.A., the girls told Sandberg their father had been speeding during the drive north from Camp Pendleton and seemed angry. 

A religious fast in which he had abstained from food, liquids and Adderall, a medication he took for ADHD, had affected Loggins' behavior, his daughters told investigators after the shooting, according to the D.A. One of Loggins' daughters told investigators her father was going "berserk" as a result of the fast.

Loggins and his family were fasting for the church they attended in Irvine, officials said.

During Bible study at the field the day before the shooting, the 9-year-old told investigators she heard her father yell, "Get away, Satan."

More deputies arrived on the scene after Sandberg radioed in a suspected hit-and-run and child endangerment. The officers spread out to find Loggins, with one using a night-vision monocle, according to the D.A.

Sandberg wanted to use a Taser, but neither he nor another deputy had one, he told investigators. He did have pepper spray and a baton.

Seven minutes after Loggins left the SUV, deputies reported he was headed back toward the car. At 4:46 a.m., Sandberg drew his gun and told Loggins: "Show me your hands," the D.A.'s report said.

Loggins ignored Sandberg and continued toward the car, saying something that sounded like "I've got somewhere to go" and "Give me back my kids."

Sandberg noticed Loggins was holding something in his hand, but the deputy could not make out what it was. Deputies later discovered it was a Bible.

According to video taken from Sandberg's patrol car, the deputy had his gun drawn as he told Loggins: "Don't get in that car or I'll shoot you."

Twenty-seven seconds after Loggins emerged from the darkness of the athletic fields and began approaching the SUV, he got in the driver's seat, shut the door and put the vehicle into gear, according to the D.A.

Sandberg then shot Loggins three times. Sandberg said he opened fire because he believed Loggins' daughters would come to harm if the Marine drove off, he told investigators in a voluntary statement the day of the shooting.

One of Loggins' daughters reportedly told investigators: "I was afraid and I think the officer was too, so that's why he shot him, so we wouldn't get hurt."

Sandberg told investigators that the speed with which Loggins moved toward the deputies and the vehicle also influenced his decision to use his gun instead of his baton or pepper spray.

In reponse to the D.A.'s findings, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens issued a statement saying: “The Loggins family lost a beloved husband and father. Anytime someone’s life is taken, it’s a tragedy for all involved. The District Attorney’s office conducted a thorough investigation and we respect their conclusions.”

The D.A's version of events largely matched initial accounts released by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, but added details gleaned from interviews, especially with his young daughters.

Sandberg told officials he believed Loggins was acting irrationally, as if he were "on a mission." Sandberg, a former Marine himself, told investigators he was unnerved by Loggins' refusal to obey orders from a uniformed officer.

A deputy standing near Sandberg as Loggins returned to the vehicle told investigators the Marine's jaw was clenched and his body rigid, leading the deputy to believe he was in a psychotic state or on drugs.

The official version of events has been criticized and challenged by Loggins' friends, Camp Pendleton brass and police-procedure experts interviewed by Patch.

In May, Loggins' widow and children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

The Loggins family attorney, Brian Dunn, criticized the D.A.'s report.

"We're very disappointed," Dunn told City News Service. "This is a very significant insult, combined with the most devastating injury one can imagine, and the family is very disappointed in the system, but committed to fighting this in the civil arena."

It is possible Loggins did not see the gate, which was sometimes closed and other times open when he visited the high school, Dunn told City News Service. (A school district spokesman told Patch, "In general, the gate is locked around 10:30 p.m. at night and opened around 6 a.m. on school days.")

The attorney said the deputy's explanation of what happened consisted of "self-serving statements."

UPDATE: On Oct. 3, Dunn added to his criticisms of the D.A. report. Click here to read the story.

Before the D.A. press conference, Camp Pendleton's commander, Brig. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, met with investigators and was told of their conclusions. In a press release issued Friday afternoon, he said:

"The death of Sgt. Loggins is tragic and unfortunate. While we respect the investigative process by the District Attorney's office, we continue to provide support to the Loggins family and they remain in our thoughts and prayers."

Peter Schelden October 03, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Pan, Chris's original comment was deleted because it contained one profanity. I e-mailed Chris twice and encouraged him to repost it in its entirety, with the exception of that one profanity. And Chris, you are more than welcome to blog on Patch. You can get started by following this link: http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog/apply
Sharon Luckett October 04, 2012 at 03:22 PM
When was manny diagnosed with ADHD? After he was murdered I guess. This report is garbage and people are commenting on a one sided story that's not even a good cover up story. And it's get ye behind me satan not get away satan. What's more said is how they lie on mannys children to make it seem like the children where in danger so they can justify killing manny. which they were in danger but not by manny by the officer that murdered him.
Suphie Wesner November 21, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Mm-mm-mm. What a cryin' shame. For crying out loud. Lol. ~SUPHIE
Scott Spencer November 21, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Sorry for the misunderstanding. You're right, Big Al should be here taking up this cause!
Joker Joe November 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Scott The U.S. attorney, Eric Holder, who is black, should also be investigating this case. It stinks.

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