Chandler officer who shot and killed Anthony Cano, 17, will not be charged

The Chandler police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Anthony Cano in January 2021 will not be charged, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced Thursday at a somber press conference.

Cano’s death last year sparked weeks of protests, demanding action against the only officer who prosecuted him, Chase Bebak-Miller. During this time, the Chandler Police Department conducted its own internal investigation, which it forwarded to the county to review and determine if criminal charges were warranted.

Mitchell said Thursday she has concluded there is “no reasonable prospect of conviction” in the case and that Bebak-Miller will not face charges. The officer remains in the force.

“Today is not an easy day,” Mitchell said during the opening of the press conference. She had empathy for the “parents who lost a son and the family who lost a family member,” she said. But, Mitchell continued, she did not believe Bebak-Miller’s actions that night were unreasonable, the legal standard for bringing charges against a police officer for force.

In a statement Thursday, attorney Julie Gunnigle, who is vying for the county attorney’s seat in the November election, strongly criticized the decision. It was “a flagrant failure of justice for a family mourning the death of their child”, she said. It showed that the office, she said, was “driven by allegiance to law enforcement cronies on the right of Arizona families to have their day in court.”

The Cano case was the first high-profile police brutality case Mitchell has spoken on during her tenure, and it will likely be divisive. Cano’s family and protesters have been calling for criminal charges against Bebak-Miller for more than a year.

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Cano was riding a bicycle on a Chandler Boulevard on January 2, 2021, the night he was shot. Bebak-Miller was in his squad car and spotted Cano. The officer said he initiated a chase because Cano had no rear reflectors on his bike and was riding erratically on the road. He was not suspected of any crime.

When Bebak-Miller flashed his headlights, Cano abandoned his bike and fled on foot to a nearby park. He had a Glock pistol in his pocket, which the officer observed. Body-worn camera footage shows the gun drop and Cano grabbing it and throwing it. Then, Bebak-Miller fires once, and Cano falls, and again, while on the ground, the gun out of range. Both shots were behind Cano.

While Cano was injured, he told Bebak-Miller that he tried to throw the gun to avoid getting shot. Bebak-Miller told him it was “stupid”. When another officer arrived, the two men handcuffed Cano. He would not die for three weeks – January 23 – while still in hospital.

Mitchell said she “questioned the reasonableness of the second shot”, but ultimately decided it was a reasonable action, citing that only two seconds passed between shots. She also claimed that body-worn camera footage shows Cano “appearing to turn back to Officer Bebak-Miller with his gun in his right hand” before dropping the gun.

But though the body camera footage is shaky and blurry, it’s clear that Cano never points the gun at Bebak-Miller.

When a reporter asked what Mitchell would tell Cano’s family, Mitchell said she had spoken to Cano’s mother and there was “nothing I could say that would ease her grief.”

The Cano case is the second highly anticipated charging decision the MCAO has released in the month since Mitchell took office. Earlier this month, the bureau announced charges in the case of Charles Ryan, the former director of the Arizona prison system who, while drunk, pointed a gun at officers responding to a call at his home in Temple. He faces disorderly conduct and firearms charges.

Mitchell acknowledged the time the office took to deliberate on the Cano case – more than a year – and said she had “inherited a backlog of shooting reviews involving officers” from her predecessor, Allister Adel.

Adel, who died on April 30 at 45, had been criticized for being slow in dealing with cases during her tenure, particularly police use of force cases. Staffing shortages in the office played a role in the delays, however, as Mitchell acknowledged. Whether that will change under his administration remains to be seen.

Mitchell said Monday she was making progress and “reducing” those cases, though the picture will be clearer next month when the bureau releases data on her progress.

Last year, the city of Chandler paid Cano’s family a $1.1 million settlement in two lawsuits over his death.

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