Slain teen’s family decries County Attorney’s ruling - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Slain teen’s family decries County Attorney’s ruling

June 5th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Slain teen’s family decries County Attorney’s ruling

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Anthony Cano’s family is not happy with the Maricopa County Attorney’s decision not to charge the Chandler police officer who fatally shot the 17-year-old boy twice in the back on Jan. 2, 2021. The anger – and tears – still come quickly.

“I think the county attorney is making a name for herself,” said John Clum, Anthony’s grandfather. “She did in five weeks what the other one didn’t do in a year and a half. Don’t quite understand that. She’s probably got a good job coming for now. I’m really bitter.”

Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced on May 26 that her office would not charge Officer Chase Bebak-Miller in the shooting death of Cano. She said that she called Cano’s mother to inform her of the decision before announcing it to the media.

“I have reviewed the body-worn camera many times, and I can understand why people would question the reasonableness of the second shot,” Mitchell said. “In reviewing Officer Bebak’s statements, he stated that he did not realize that the gun had been tossed aside before he fired that second shot.”

Mitchell is running in the Republican primary Aug. 2 for a full four years in the job, was appointed by the county supervisors to replace the late Allistar Adel after she resigned.

She said in a statement, “And given everything that was happening, it’s not surprising or unreasonable that Officer Bebak-Miller did not realize that the gun was no longer in Anthony Cano’s hand.”

Mitchell’s explanation didn’t wash with the dead teen’s family.

“I mean, you always stay hopeful,” said Eva Cano, Anthony’s aunt. “But we knew what was coming. But just to hear that explanation and the attempted justification is just kind of sickening.”

“I think she earned herself a whole lot of campaign support [with the announcement],” said Sylvia Morales, Anthony’s grandmother. “It’s awful that if we had to take the toll, you know, that’s how I feel.”

Mitchell said since taking over the office, she made it a priority to review all police shooting cases. She said she personally reviewed this case and decided she could not convince a jury that Bebak-Miller is guilty of murder.

The family’s lawyer issued a statement, saying, “Rachel Mitchell’s refusal to file criminal charges against a rogue officer who executed a paralyzed child is legally and morally indefensible. Police killings must stop.”

The police and County Attorney’s version of events is that Cano fled when the officer turned on his lights. He ignored warnings to stop running. He had a gun, and just before he was shot had dropped the gun and was picking it up. They claim the officer believed Cano intended to fire on him, so he shot.

Body-worn camera footage shows Cano falling face first on the ground, no longer in possession of the gun. He did not appear to be moving. The officer walks up behind him and fires again.

“That second shot is hard to watch,” Mitchell said, adding that this case meets two of the three standards that the U.S. Supreme Court said should be used in deciding if lethal force was needed or not.

Those three factors are: Does the suspect pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others? Is the suspect actively resisting arrest, or attempting to evade arrest by flight? The severity of the crime at issue.

Mitchell said that two of those three factors were met in this case.

“As County Attorney I must make difficult decisions and I do not take this responsibility lightly,” Mitchell said. “Parents lost their son. Family lost a family member, and a young man lost his life. But it is my job to decide whether criminal charges can be pursued. And that requires me to determine whether charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury.”

Mitchell admitted that at no point in the body-worn camera footage does Cano actually point the gun at the officer. Cano later claimed, before he died three weeks after the shooting, that he was trying to toss the gun away. Mitchell said that the gun is a split second away from being able to be pointed at Bebak-Miller and a shot going off.

“The death of this 17-year-old young man is heartbreaking,” Mitchell said. “I want his family to know that I acknowledge and I recognize the terrible loss that they have suffered. But after an analysis of all these factors, I have determined that the actions of Officer Bebak-Miller did not violate criminal statutes, and this office will not be filing criminal charges in this matter.”

But Eva Cano said, “I’m sorry, if you shoot somebody face down on the back, I think that’s an execution. I don’t know how else to justify that.”
The family called Anthony “Peanut” and described him as a happy, active kid who had natural charisma. He loved to play sports, pretty much any sport, and loved taking care of his sister.

Eva said Peanut was studying to take his GED (General Educational Development) and wanted to go to college to become a nurse, just like her.
Peanut was coming home from the Boys and Girls Club on his bike when the police lights went off.

The family said Bebak-Miller should never have been patrolling there. This was outside of his normal patrol area and that the officer had made comments that he wanted to clean up that area.

Also, Bebak-Miller had his father along that night for an unauthorized ride-along, they said, suggesting he may have been looking for trouble to show off for his father.
Eva said relatives don’t believe Peanut was riding his bike erratically, as the police described. They said he was coming home from the Boys and Girls Club and probably just crossed the street quickly.

They say the officer tried to pull him over for a broken headlamp. As for why Peanut had a gun, they don’t know. They said it wasn’t like him.

“It was not his character to have a gun,” Eva said. “It was not his character to be violent. He was just not that kid.”

She said Peanut had no criminal record and had never had any problems with the police outside of getting into one fight, something she said happens to lots of kids.

However, she said after the shooting, a couple of Peanut’s friends showed them videos that had been posted on social media that were threats made against him. He and some friends were tossing around a football in the street, and the ball hit a truck a couple of times. The owner of the truck got angry.

“And so they had a statement on [the social media posts] with something like, ‘What you have coming to you’ and pictures of guns.

She said they believe Peanut felt threatened and may have obtained a gun to protect himself. When the police lights went off, he panicked, fearing he would get in trouble for having the gun, so he ran.

Both the Chandler Police Department and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office were asked for any comments or statements regarding the Cano family’s version of events. They declined to comment.

Peanut died three weeks after the shooting in a hospital. A memorial has been set up at Gazelle Meadows Park, where the shooting took place. There, candles spell out L-L-C, the same letters that are painted on a nearby bench. It stands for Long Live Cano. A vigil was held at that park the night after the County Attorney announced they would not pursue charges.

The City of Chandler paid the Cano family $1.125 million to settle a legal claim.

“It’s not fair, but it’s expected,” said Jennifer Morales, Peanut’s cousin. “With so much that got thrown under the rug for so long, it would have been nice to have some type of justice for him, but all we can do is hope something changes later and it can save other kids from this happening to them.”