District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Law enforcement on the scene of Hope Ranch murder investigation on October 15, 2019 (Photo: John Palminteri) title=
Law enforcement on the scene of Hope Ranch murder investigation on October 15, 2019 (Photo: John Palminteri)
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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.


Cameron, Ron, and Valerie Ely (Photo: The Independent)

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

Aerial photo of the Ely home in Hope Ranch (Photo: Zillow)

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."

Cameron Ely in 2008 (Photo: Facebook)

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.

RELATED ARTICLES

 October 15, 2019: Wife and Son Killed in Tarzan Actor's Hope Ranch Home

 October 29, 2019: Officers Identified in Shooting of Unarmed Hope Ranch Murder Suspect

 August 27, 2020: One Santa Barbara Deputy, Five Violent Deaths

 September 30, 2020: 'Tarzan' Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office Over Family Deaths

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Babycakes Oct 08, 2020 01:55 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

This has to be one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. A mother is slashed/stabbed to death by her very own son, and the son decides to end his life by having the police shoot him (called "suicide by cop" in some circles). I feel very sad for Ron losing his wife and son in nearly the same instant. The officers who had to take Cameron's life had no other choice than to do so. Very unfortunate, but it happens every day in this country, and it will continue to happen more and more as people are at their breaking point. When someone is basically out of their mind, their behavior becomes very erratic, and that's when events like this take place. DA Dudley made the right decision, and most of us, no all, are behind her decision in this case.

lovesbalot Oct 07, 2020 05:46 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

No cameras on that says it all to me. They are hiding something. An outside agency should investigate not Dudley investigating her buddies. So tragic. What happens to innocent to proven guilty. And how about using a taser instead of your guns. 22 shots is crazy. We don't need cops like this out there. And Rogers definitely needs to go. Wherever he goes trouble follows. So sad for this family. People may think twice before calling 911 when you hear stories like this. Unneccessary. The police made the situation worse than they found it.

Bene Oct 07, 2020 05:41 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Why is this not national news? Where are the marches and protests on behalf of justice for the Elys? No gun was found on Cameron and there is no evidence that he said he had one, only the word of the deputies. At the point they killed him, they did not know for sure that he had murdered his mother. I read somewhere else that the sisters are maintaining that the mother was trying to harm the father and that is why Cameron got involved, and then she also stabbed Cameron first. Who knows about that part of it, but in any event, executing Cameron without a trial first should not be so easily dismissed.

Bene Oct 07, 2020 07:11 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Actually, you are right, I should have qualified my remarks more carefully. The information I was quoting is based on an opinion piece that interpreted some assertions and statements, such as the fact Cameron had stab wounds and had stated to the police that his mother attacked his father, to make those conclusions. No they have not been proven, and I should not have been seeming to quote the sisters. But this unfortunate side comment has nothing to do with the central point of my post, which is that whether there were any extenuating circumstances to his motives for what he did or not, police executions without a trial first should not be so easily dismissed or forgotten. And, wondering why the dismissal of this police shooting has not been met with equal outrage, protests, and media coverage, as other incidents recently that bear the same hallmarks e.g., no evidence of gun or threat to police yet gunned down anyway,

mpinkerton Oct 07, 2020 02:23 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

the other newsletter in town includes in this story the information that except for one officer on the scene, all others had their body cameras turned off. And the one officer who had it turned on initially, subsequently turned it off. This was a dangerous situation, and I'm going to assume that the police officers acted appropriately, but the cameras are provided to protect both them and the public and to reduce speculation about what actually happened.

Let's hope there is some follow-up within the department about actually using the provided cameras.

a-1602104417 Oct 07, 2020 02:00 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Rogers needs to be fired. He never should have been hired. His attitude in training was wrong and has been since too. All police, regardless of what they are called, need to be retrained to NOT FIRE THEIR LETHAL WEAPONS. We are all INNOCENT until proven guilty. The police take the law into their own hands when they kill. That person can no longer have a trial and perhaps be proven not guilty. The DA is complicit in protecting the police. Police can not be trusted to tell or write the truth. They protect their own. It takes way too much courage in this CLUB to expose a member for wrong doing. The UNION is WRONG to protect the police from being charged with MURDER or other inhumane means of handling a situation. Elected officials MUST NOT agree to contracts that protect police differently from the rest of society. WE MUST HAVE WHOLESALE CHANGE in attitude, training, and expectations of the police. The police have to become humane, competent, empathetic people in their jobs as PEACE officers, not the aggressive bullies they way too often are.

haskelslocal Oct 07, 2020 08:59 AM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

What are the officers talking about as they casually stroll down a driveway in the dark? If processing a crime scene, is this the time to be chit chatting off topic? Seems exactly the time to be hyper-focused to prevent these outcomes. Awareness and readiness are crucial on duty, on scene, exactly because of potential short reaction times presented on confrontation. This slight difference in preparedness creates the error in motor skill response go/no go. That entire moment becomes the difference between detaining someone or unloading your revolver on them. Which officer shoots first? Which is the one who screams the f-bomb? Why can we not hear in the audio any indication of Cameron saying he had a gun? Why once revolvers have been unloaded is there not more urgency or method of next steps to quickly administer aid? As we know after the fact here, even if his arm was under him, he wasn't pulling for a gun. What if he was bleeding out on the ground and had no physical capacity to move? Or filled with lead and bleeding out, he was acutely aware guns were pointed at him. Knowing if he moved wrong he'd be shot again. So much to unpack considering a certain officer's involvement with now multiple shootings resulting in death.

JB86 Oct 07, 2020 12:18 AM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Seems pretty clear that Cameron murdered Valerie. What Sheriffs Deputies did - or did not do- subsequently, is secondary to that fact. Cameron's intoxication and history of mental instability tend to support the deputies description of Cameron's irrational behavior at the end of the incident. All very bad and sad, but I think the DA's conclusion is legally correct.

doulie Oct 06, 2020 11:31 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Reading of the police officer involved shootings across the country it appears "outside agencies" are being contacted to conduct these investigation(s). I don't know if this is true in all cases but it seems to be the trend.

Of concern in the Ely shooting is that the Sheriff's Office conducted the investigation. Their investigation was only "reviewed" by the DA's office. Why wasn't an "outside agency" requested to conduct this investigation? Did an investigator with the DA's office or any other agency assist in the investigation? One of the deputies present at the Ely incident reportedly was involved in three prior shooting incidents. More reason to request an impartial "outside agency?"

a-1602036260 Oct 06, 2020 07:04 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Reading the report and listening to the audio, things just don't add up. If a deputy feared for his life, why would he calmly put on gloves and go try to assist a bleeding person? There is absolutely no evidence of the kid saying he has a gun, not on the audio at all. He had no weapon and the report clearly states they all had a hard time seeing in the dark. I don't know, I think Ron has a case here. This report was also written by the Sheriff's Office, it's 100% bias. You can tell by how it's written. In this day and age, how do we not have an independent organization investigating these incidents?

a-1602036568 Oct 06, 2020 07:09 PM
District Attorney Finds Officer-Involved Shooting of Tarzan Actor's Son Justified

Listening to the audio, it sounds like there were 3 calm deputies, and 1 trigger happy deputy who freaked out. Would it be a coincidence if it's Deputy Rogers who's been involved in 5 fatal shootings already? The report states Rogers was one of the deputies who walked up on Ely within seconds of him being shot numerous times. It could be a coincidence.... but probably not.

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