Two Fontana Police Department officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of a 45-year-old man nearly two years ago have been cleared of all wrongdoing, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
The incident, which took place on March 10, 2018 in Fontana, resulted in the death of Orion Godbout, who had just shot his neighbor to death, witnesses said. Godbout's death was described by the D.A. as a "suicide during a lethal force encounter" involving Lieutenant James De La Torre and Officer Mark Render.
"Based on the facts presented in the reports and the applicable law, the use of deadly force by all involved officers was a proper exercise of their rights of self defense and defense of others and therefore their actions were legally justified," the D.A.'s Office said in its official review of the incident.
The review of the case indicated that Godbout had a prior criminal history and that he had created ongoing problems with his neighbors on Cypress Avenue leading up to the day of the incident.
At about 1:20 p.m., witnesses called 911 and said their father had been shot in the street and his vehicle, a Toyota Camry, had its door open.
Two Fontana P.D. officers, Paul Beltran and James Escarpe, responded to the scene and started rendering medical aid to the victim. During this time, Beltran heard about four to five gunshots from behind him. Beltran and Escarpe drew their weapons and took cover behind the Camry. The officers and the victim's family members moved the gunshot victim behind the Camry for cover, and the officers were informed that Godbout was the shooter.
Mark Render and De La Torre arrived at the scene a short while later. Render parked his patrol vehicle north of the victim's house. Render exited his patrol vehicle, took his rifle, and ran to the Camry. De La Torre parked his patrol vehicle just south of
Godbout’s driveway. De La Torre exited his patrol vehicle, drew his weapon, and took cover on the passenger side of his patrol vehicle.
Both Render and De La Torre focused their attention on the front of Godbout’s house, where they had been told the shooter was possibly located.
Render saw a hand holding a black handgun come out of a lattice gate that was near the front porch of Godbout’s house. Render feared Godbout was about to shoot De La Torre and fired one round from his rifle toward the black handgun.
Around the same time, De La Torre saw Godbout walk out onto the porch. De La Torre heard Godbout yell something and then Godbout fired a round. The gunshot was followed by what De La Torre believed to be a shotgun blast. De La Torre feared for the safety of his officers and fired his duty weapon twice at Godbout, who fell to the ground.
Officers were able to transport the original shooting victim to a nearby elementary school, where Fire Department personnel and medical personnel were staged. The victim was then transported to a hospital, where he later died.
The Inland Valley SWAT team was notified and responded to the scene in a Bearcat. The SWAT team approached Godbout, who was laying on the ground in front of his house. Godbout was found to have a gunshot wound to the head and was pronounced deceased.
A forensic pathologist for the San Bernardino County Coroner's Division later determined the manner of death was suicide.