MARTINEZ — A Bay Area man who was shot by Vallejo officers in 2017 after reportedly ramming an unmarked police vehicle was in trial this week when he abruptly decided to take a plea deal, accepting convictions on two charges related to the incident.
Kevin DeCarlo, 23, was convicted of felony resisting an officer and misdemeanor assault. He will be sentenced to one year in jail, though the sentence is just on paper; prosecutors say DeCarlo has already served that much time awaiting trial, and faces no additional incarceration. He will also be required to do three years of probation.
The plea deal was finalized a day after DeCarlo took the stand in his own defense, offering a description of the evening that contradicted testimony of several Vallejo officers. DeCarlo was being cross-examined when he accepted the deal.
“At the time of this offense the Defendant was a convicted felon with a history of endangering the lives of law enforcement officers,” deputy district attorney Chris Sansoe, the prosecutor, said in an email. “We hope this conviction will deter future acts by Mr. DeCarlo against law enforcement officers in both Contra Costa County and Solano County.”
The charges stem from a May 31, 2017 incident when a task force of Vallejo officers, a Solano District Attorney inspector, and U.S. Marshals came to arrest DeCarlo for allegedly getting into a police chase in Vallejo days earlier. They arrived at a residence in the Pacheco area, on the 400 block of Ellis Road.
By the end of the incident, DeCarlo had been shot numerous times, after police say he rammed a Dodge sedan into a Ford F150 being driven by retired Vallejo police Det. Sean Kenney. DeCarlo has sued three officers — Jarrett Tonn, Det. Kevin Barretto, and Kenney — allegedly the three shot him while he had his hands raised in the air. The suit remains active.
The defense was expected to argue that the Ford F150’s lights weren’t activated at the time of the collision.
Several officers were wearing body cameras that night, but no one turned theirs on until after the shooting occurred, according to testimony. An officers’ body camera footage after the shooting shows police yelling at DeCarlo to get out of the car, adding, “We don’t want to hurt you.” DeCarlo yells back that he cannot remove himself from his car because he’s too badly injured.
The police then pull DeCarlo out, and begin offering medical care. DeCarlo screams in pain and says he can’t breathe.
“Where are you shot?” one officer can be heard asking DeCarlo.
“Everywhere,” he replies.
The prosecution’s case culminated with the testimony of Kenney, who as the lead investigator was allowed to sit at the prosecutor’s table and watch other witnesses testify. He was the second-to-last prosecution witness called, testifying that he was on undercover duty that night, and spent time walking and bicycling around the 400 block of Ellis Drive, before a team of officers moved in to arrest DeCarlo.
Kenney said he then got into his large Ford pickup truck and — with another officer — attempted a “slow speed containment” where both cops would strike DeCarlo’s car at 5 miles per hour or less, and box him in. But it didn’t work; another car left the area at the same time as DeCarlo and the move was ineffective, Kenney testified.
He said he made contact with DeCarlo’s car, the Dodge, and spun it in a half-circle. He said the “next thing” he knew, DeCarlo’s Dodge was coming straight at him at a “very fast” speed.
“I thought I was going to be hit at a high rate of speed by a 4,000-pound vehicle and be seriously hurt or killed,” Kenney testified. The collision, he said, “scared the crap out of me, for lack of a better term.”
Kenney said the collision injured his hip so badly that it was, “in part the reason I am no longer able to work as a law enforcement officer.” He officially left the Vallejo police department about 18 months later, in Dec. 2018.
Kenney said that after the shooting, he heard gunshots and saw sparks of light near the Dodge, assumed DeCarlo was shooting at him, and so he fired several times at DeCarlo and sought cover behind his truck. On the way out, his hip buckled underneath him, he said.
In reality, the gunshots Kenney heard were being fired by Tonn, who was armed with a rifle. Kenney said he couldn’t explain “what the heck” he mistook for muzzle flashes in the car, but speculates it was Tonn’s bullets hitting the hood of the Dodge.
Kenney said after firing several times at DeCarlo, he paused, then shot twice more when DeCarlo didn’t raise both his hands, one of which had been shot several times. DeCarlo lost his middle finger on his left hand from the shooting.
Police thoroughly searched the area, found no weapon, and now concede that DeCarlo was unarmed. At the time, police say DeCarlo was a suspect in a violent robbery, but has since been cleared.
Kenney also testified about his training, which includes 2,000 hours of various courses, and a Master’s degree in psychology. A judge ruled Kenney qualified as an expert on car collisions, and since retired as a policeman he’s become a training consultant for other law enforcement agencies.
During a break in Kenney’s testimony, Judge Anita Santos ruled that DeCarlo’s attorney, Mike Luther, could not question Kenney about his history of prior shootings. In 2012, as a patrol officer, Kenney shot and killed three people in separate incidents, within a six-month span. The year before, Kenney’s partner, Ofc. Jim Capoot, was murdered while chasing a suspect in Vallejo.
Kenney was sued for all three fatal shootings. The city of Vallejo paid out more than $2 million to settle all three suits, and Kenney was later promoted to detective.
DeCarlo’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment, but his mother did. She believes what happened to her son was “attempted murder” and referred to Kenney as a “serial killer.”
“As far as I’m concerned, Kevin won when he walked outta that hospital 12 days after being gunned down by a sadistic serial killer wearing a badge,” DeCarlo’s mother said.