District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County's District Attorney (DA) finds the fatal 2019 shooting of Cameron Ely, son of 'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely, a "justifiable homicide."
DA Joyce Dudley released a report on Tuesday stating her office completed its review of the investigation, conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, of the homicide of Cameron Pierce Ely, age 30, occurring on October 15, 2019, at the Ely's Hope Ranch home.
The report alleges that Cameron Ely stabbed his mother, 62-year-old Valerie Ely, to death while Ron Ely was in the home. Ron had previously suffered a stroke, was confined to a wheelchair, and was unable to speak clearly. At approximately 8:15 pm Cameron is believed to have called 911, saying his mother tried to attack his father and “I defended him” before hanging up. When the 911 dispatcher called back, Ron got on the phone. The dispatcher attempted to find out what was happening at the home but could not understand Ron.
Three Santa Barbara County Sheriff deputies responded to the residence to investigate. When they arrived, they found Valerie in the dining area. The report states she was "obviously deceased" with a knife handle protruding from her chest and multiple stab wounds to her chest and abdomen. However, according to the report Deputies did not take a pulse or attempt to render aid to Valerie to confirm if she was deceased.
Ron was located in the home and deputies believed he was telling them that his son had stabbed Valerie and fled, even though the report also states he was "very emotional and difficult to understand." Additional deputies arrived and searched both the house and grounds, but did not locate anyone else. Medics responded and transported Ron to the hospital for evaluation while deputies continued investigating.
A sergeant and senior deputy remained in front of the house while two other deputies went to obtain the license plate number of a truck parked at the back of the home so that investigators could determine if any vehicles were missing and possibly being used by the suspect. As the two deputies walked down a long, dark driveway on the side of the house leading to the back of the property, they encountered Cameron suddenly, according to the report.
"From the light of a flashlight, they could see he appeared to have blood on him and a fresh wound to his neck. The deputies immediately yelled at him to show his hands and get on the ground. The sergeant and senior deputy immediately ran to the side of the house in the direction of the voices. All four deputies said events happened very quickly. Initially [Cameron] acted as if he were going to comply with the commands; however, as [Cameron] got to the ground, he suddenly sprang to his feet and while bending at the waist, he reached toward his waistband while simultaneously saying, 'I have a gun!' Fearing that [Cameron] was drawing a gun to shoot and kill or injure the deputies, all four deputies fired their service weapons striking [Cameron] multiple times. He was pronounced dead at the scene," the report states.
The report comes on the heels of a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by Ron against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office for the deaths of Cameron and Valerie. The lawsuit claims that the five deputies who responded to the Ely residence neglected to give timely medical aid to Valerie and then shot Cameron 22 times as he attempted to surrender to them unarmed with his hands in the air, reports The Independent.
Both the lawsuit and DA's report state that Deputies did not render medical aid to Valerie or check to see if she was alive. The lawsuit also states medical personnel was allegedly blocked from entering the home for over 30 minutes, and by the time they reached Valerie at 8:42 p.m., she was pronounced dead.
A 9-1-1 transcript and audio recording of the fatal shooting appears to portray a quick escalation of events when two other deputies arrived to assist with Cameron. The recording depicts one deputy calmly telling Cameron to keep his hands up while the deputy reached for gloves to render aid to Cameron's wounds. When the two other deputies arrive gunshots ring out almost instantly.
The DA report states all four deputies heard Cameron state "very clearly" in a "loud" and "aggressive and determined" yell of "I have a gun!" However, this cannot be heard on the audio recording. All four deputies also state they saw Cameron suddenly pop up from the ground and reach for gun or weapon in his waistband even though Cameron was unarmed and the report states the area was very dark with no streetlights or exterior lighting causing difficult visibility.
The report also states, "two of the deputies remembered [Cameron] laying down on the ground before springing up, while the other two deputies described [Cameron] starting to lower down as if he was going to lay on the ground but then springing up before he had laid his whole body on the ground. All four of them described him springing up very quickly while the lighting and his body position made them unable to see his waistband."
The subsequent investigation stated detectives met with Ron, his two adult daughters, and a son-in-law. The family reportedly stated Cameron's behavior had been "erratic," "unstable," and "volatile," for a long time but more concerning in the days leading up to events. One sister said his behavior was "delusional" while the other was afraid to be around him and urged Valerie to call the police. They suspected he had mental health issues, possibly related to his history of sustaining concussions playing football.
A neuropathologist at Boston University examined Cameron's brain post-mortem and diagnosed a stage 1 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”). A toxicological analysis of his blood showed he had amphetamine, THC, and 0.04% ethanol in his system at the time of his death. The official cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.
Valerie sustained seven stab wounds to her chest, abdomen, back, and right forearm. Her left lung showed signs of collapse and her liver was pierced. He also observed four other incised wounds to her arms and approximately 16 blunt force injuries to her head, face, chest, abdomen, arms, hands, and legs. The official cause of her death was multiple stab wounds.
October 15, 2019:
October 29, 2019:
August 27, 2020:
September 30, 2020: 'Tarzan' Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office Over Family Deaths