Officials have ruled that the 2019 fatal shooting of Cameron Ely — the 30-year-old son of Tarzan actor Ron Ely — was a "justifiable homicide" after police discovered that he had fatally stabbed his mother, Valerie Ely, and told officers that he had a gun.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Santa Barbara District Attorney released a detailed report into the Oct. 15, 2019 incident, which said that sheriff's deputies "acted reasonably in his/her use of deadly force" when they shot Cameron more than 20 times.
Authorities arrived at the family's Hope Ranch home around 8:30 p.m. in response to a call about a stabbing at the residence, according to the report. When deputies entered the house, they found Valerie, 62, dead with multiple stab wounds and went looking for Cameron after his father — who was home at the time of the incident — confirmed that he was the suspect.
Officials say in the report that two deputies encountered a "disheveled" Cameron on a dark driveway during a search of the 1.5-acre property, with one officer noting that the suspect had a knife wound on his neck.
"Both deputies saw that Ely had blood on him and believed he was the suspect in Valerie’s murder. Both deputies pointed their gun at Ely. At least one of them illuminated him with the light on his firearm," the report reads. "The deputies yelled multiple times at Ely to get down on the ground and to keep his hands up."
"Ely suddenly sprang upward. As he was moving to his feet, Ely bent forward at the waist, quickly moved his hands toward his waist, and yelled, 'I have a gun!' " the report continues, stating that each deputy then "fired his or her firearm multiple times, striking Ely."
According to the report, Cameron was "moving and moaning" on the floor when the officers requested a ballistic shield and went to secure the area.
"They quickly emptied Ely’s pockets to check for weapons. They did not find any weapons, but did find a metal garden hose tap splitter, a stack of playing cards, small rocks, a car key fob, an iPhone, crumpled papers, a bank card, a little plastic bag with a white powdery substance that later tested positive for cocaine, and a small plastic bottle labeled liquid vitamins," the report reads.
"All four deputies reported that they feared Ely had a weapon until the point they handcuffed him, turned him onto his back, and pat searched him," the report continues. "The medics arrived very quickly because they had been staging on the street by the top of the driveway. Medics pronounced Ely dead on-scene."
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A postmortem examination showed that Cameron suffered a total of 22 gunshot wounds to his torso, neck, back, buttocks and arms, according to officials.
"All four deputies described Ely as initially complying with the commands to get down, but as some of the deputies moved closer to Ely, he suddenly sprang to his feet while simultaneously bending at the waist and moving his hands toward his waist as if grabbing a weapon, and saying clearly, 'I have a gun,' " the report reads.
"Under these circumstances, Ely’s actions coupled with the deputies’ beliefs that Ely had recently brutally stabbed Valerie to death, caused [the officers] to reasonably believe that Ely was going to kill or seriously injure one or more of the deputies. They reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to respond to the threat Ely posed to them. Thus, the deputies’ use of force in firing at Ely was a reasonable use of deadly force."
Recently, Ron filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for its alleged role in the death of both Cameron and Valerie.
In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the lawsuit claimed that Cameron was trying to surrender to police before they shot him. The suit also claimed that the five officers on the scene neglected to give timely medical assistance to Valerie.
"The reprehensible conduct of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department Deputies was egregious, entirely unreasonable, and, accordingly, unconstitutional," the claim alleged.
Ron Ely is a veteran actor who is best known for playing the role of Tarzan from 1966 to 1968. Additionally, he hosted the Miss America pageant in the 1980s.
After getting married to Valerie in 1984, Ron took a break from acting to focus on raising their children. More recently, he had a role in the 2014 television movie Expecting Amish.
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