The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday released its report into the October 2019 fatal shooting of 30-year-old Cameron Ely, determining that the involved Sheriff’s personnel acted responsibly in their use of deadly force.
The shooting, which resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Cameron’s father, Ron Ely, the former “Tarzan” actor and current Hope Ranch resident, was ultimately deemed a justifiable homicide, according to the 12-page report.
The report included analysis on the investigative reports, coroner’s reports, video and audio recordings, photographs and witness interviews collected during the investigation conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and submitted for review by Detective Matthew Banks.
Earlier this summer, a federal wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ron Ely in connection with the death of his wife, Valerie, and son, Cameron. An amended complaint was filed in late September in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Named as defendants are multiple members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Barbara County.
The lawsuit specifically named the deputies involved in the shooting of 30-year-old Cameron Ely, including Sgt. Desiree Thome, Deputy Jeremy Rogers, Deputy Phillip Farley and Deputy John Gruttadaurio.
The lawsuit claims that the deputies “actively obstructed” county fire personnel from providing treatment and that Valerie “was left on the floor without any medical treatment or care for more than 30 minutes.
Further, the lawsuit claimed that Cameron was advised to “keep his hands up,” before multiple deputies opened fire and struck Cameron 22 times “without any warning or legal justification.”
The District Attorney’s report disputes those claims.
The report states that Cameron stabbed his mother to death in their Hope Ranch home.
Around 8:15 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 15, 2019, Cameron called 911 and said his mother tried to attack his father and he “defended him” before hanging up.
“When the 911 dispatcher called back, Ron got on the phone,” the report reads. “The dispatcher attempted to find out what was happening at the home but she could not understand Ron.”
Three deputies responded and found Valerie in the dining area, deceased, the report states.
“They saw a knife handle protruding from her chest and multiple stab wounds to her chest and abdomen. They located Ron in the home,” the report reads. “He was very emotional and difficult to understand, but deputies believed he was telling them that his son had stabbed Valerie and fled. Additional deputies arrived and searched both the house and grounds, but did not locate anyone else.”
Ron was transported to the hospital for evaluation while deputies continued to investigate the murder. The report noted that 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.
“The property was very large and very dark, with no streetlights or exterior lighting,” the report reads. “As the two deputies walked down the long, dark driveway on the side of the house leading to the back of the property, they encountered (Cameron) suddenly.
“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 ran to the side of the house towards the voices. All four deputies said the events “happened very quickly,” according to the report.
“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.”
In the wake of the incident, the Sheriff’s Office announced that Cameron was not armed when the shooting occurred.
The DA’s report noted that all four Sheriff’s personnel believed that Cameron had violently stabbed Valerie and “could still be armed.”
K-9 Deputy Phil Farley said in the report that he thought Cameron was “going to ambush us,” while others noted they felt they were about to be “critically assaulted.”
Cameron was later found not to be in possession of any weapons. Rather, he had “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,” according to the report.
During the course of the investigation, detectives found multiple large kitchen knives throughout the property, including several with blood smears.
Detectives also met with Ron, his two adult daughters and a son-in-law.
“They learned from the family that (Cameron’s) behavior had been ‘erratic,’ ‘unstable’ and ‘volatile’ for a long time but it had been more concerning in the days leading up to October 15, 2019,” the report reads.
“One sister said his behavior was ‘definitely delusional.’ The other sister refused to go to the house on October 15, 2019, because she was afraid of him,” the report continued. “During a phone call on October 15, 2019, she encouraged Valerie to call the police but (Cameron) had prevented Valerie from doing so.
“They suspected he had mental health issues, possibly related to his history of sustaining concussions playing football.”
An autopsy report showed that Cameron suffered 22 gunshot wounds to his torso, neck, back, buttocks and arms, though none of the wounds “had any indication” of being shot from close range, according to the report.
A neuropathologist at Boston University diagnosed Cameron with stage 1 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.
Cameron was found to have amphetamine, THC and 0.04% ethanol in his system at the time of his death.
Valerie suffered seven stab wounds in the incident, and her left lung collapsed and her liver was pierced. She had four other wounds to her arms and 16 blunt force injuries, according to the report.
“When (Cameron) disobeyed verbal commands by deputies, sprang to his feet and moved his hands to his waistband as if grabbing a weapon while saying, ‘I have a gun!’ shortly after killing his mother, his actions created a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury in the minds of Deputies Gruttadaurio and Farley, Sergeant Thome and Senior Deputy Rogerse,” the report reads. “Based on the investigation by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office…each of the deputies acted reasonably in his/her use of deadly force; therefore, the shooting of Cameron Pierce Ely is a justifiable homicide.”