Family of slain teenager denounce county attorney’s decision

By Ken Sain
Personal editor

Anthony Cano’s family are unhappy with the Maricopa County prosecutor’s decision not to charge the Chandler police officer who fatally shot the 17-year-old boy twice in the back on Jan. 2, 2021. Anger – and the tears – always come quickly.

“I think the county attorney is making a name for himself,” John Clum, Anthony’s grandfather, said. “She did in five weeks what the other didn’t do in a year and a half. I don’t quite understand that. She probably has a good job coming up at the moment. I’m really bitter.

Acting Maricopa County District Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced May 26 that her office would not charge Officer Chase Bebak-Miller in the shooting death of Cano. She said she called Cano’s mother to inform her of the decision before announcing it to the media.

“I’ve reviewed the body-worn camera a number of times and I can understand why people would question the reasonableness of the second shot,” Mitchell said. “In reviewing Officer Bebak’s statements, he said he did not realize the gun had been thrown aside before firing that second shot.”

Mitchell is running in the Republican primary on August 2 for four years in the role, was nominated by county supervisors to replace the late Allistar Adel after he resigned.

She said in a statement: “And given all that was going on, it is neither surprising nor unreasonable that Constable Bebak-Miller did not realize the gun was no longer in his hands. ‘Anthony Cano.’

Mitchell’s explanation was not accepted by the deceased teenager’s family.

“I mean, you still have hope,” said Eva Cano, Anthony’s aunt. “But we knew what was coming. But just hearing this explanation and attempted justification is just a little sickening.

“I think she’s earned a lot of campaign support [with the announcement]said Sylvia Morales, Anthony’s grandmother. “It’s awful that if we had to pay the price, you know, that’s how I feel.”

Mitchell said that since taking office, she has made it a priority to review all cases of police shootings. She said she personally reviewed this case and decided she could not convince a jury that Bebak-Miller was guilty of murder.

The family’s attorney released a statement saying, “Rachel Mitchell’s refusal to press charges against a rogue officer who executed a paralyzed child is legally and morally indefensible. The killings by the police must stop.

The police and county attorney’s version of events is that Cano fled when the officer turned on his lights. He ignored warnings to stop running. He had a gun, and just before he was shot, he had dropped the gun and was picking it up. They claim the officer believed Cano intended to shoot him, so he fired.

Body-worn camera footage shows Cano falling face-first to the ground, no longer in possession of the weapon. He didn’t seem to be moving. The officer comes up behind him and shoots again.

“That second strike is hard to watch,” Mitchell said, adding that this case meets two of the three standards the U.S. Supreme Court has said should be used to decide whether or not lethal force was necessary.

These three factors are: Does the suspect pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others? Is the suspect actively resisting arrest or trying to evade arrest by running away? The seriousness of the crime in question.

Mitchell said two of those three factors came together in this case.

“As a county attorney, I have to make tough decisions and I don’t take that responsibility lightly,” Mitchell said. “Parents have lost their son. The family lost a family member and a young man lost his life. But it’s my job to decide whether criminal charges can be pursued. And that forces me to consider whether the charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a unanimous jury.

Mitchell admitted that at no point in the body-worn camera footage does Cano actually point the gun at the officer. Cano later claimed, before he died three weeks after the shooting, that he was trying to throw the gun away. Mitchell said the gun is a split second away from being able to be pointed at Bebak-Miller and a shot going off.

“The death of this 17-year-old young man is heartbreaking,” Mitchell said. “I want his family to know that I recognize and acknowledge the terrible loss they have suffered. But after an analysis of all of these factors, I have determined that Officer Bebak-Miller’s actions did not violate the criminal laws, and this office will not be filing criminal charges in this case.

But Eva Cano said: “I’m sorry, if you shoot someone in the back, I think it’s an execution. I don’t know how else to justify this.
The family called Anthony “Peanut” and described him as a happy, active child who had a natural charisma. He loved playing sports, just about any sport, and loved taking care of his sister.

Eva said Peanut was studying for her GED (General Educational Development) and wanted to go to college to become a nurse, just like her.
Peanut was riding his bicycle home from the Boys and Girls Club when the police lights went out.

The family said Bebak-Miller should never have patrolled there. It was outside of his normal patrol area and the officer had made comments that he wanted to clear that area.

Additionally, Bebak-Miller had his father with him that night on an unauthorized ride, they said, suggesting he may have been looking for trouble showing up for his father.
Eva said those close to her did not believe Peanut was riding his bike erratically, as described by police. They said he was coming home from the Boys and Girls Club and probably crossed the street quickly.

They say the officer tried to arrest him for a broken headlamp. As to why Peanut had a gun, they don’t know. They said it wasn’t his type.

“It was not in her character to have a gun,” Eva said. “It wasn’t his character to be violent. He just wasn’t that kid.

She said Peanut had no criminal record and had never had any trouble with the police outside of a fight, which she said happens to a lot of kids.

However, she said after the shooting, a few of Peanut’s friends showed them videos that had been posted on social media that were threats made against her. He and some friends threw a soccer ball down the street, and the ball hit a truck a few times. The truck owner got angry.

“And so they had a statement on [the social media posts] with something like “What you got is yours” and images of guns.

She said they believed Peanut felt threatened and may have gotten a gun for protection. When the police lights went out, he panicked, fearing he would get in trouble for the gun, so he ran away.

The Chandler Police Department and the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office have been asked for comment or statements regarding the Cano family’s version of events. They declined to comment.

Peanut died three weeks after the shooting at a hospital. A memorial has been erected at Gazelle Meadows Park, where the shooting took place. There, candles spell LLC, the same letters that are painted on a nearby bench. It stands for Long Live Cano. A vigil was held at this park the night after the county attorney announced he would not press charges.

The city of Chandler paid $1.125 million to the Cano family to settle a lawsuit.

“It’s not fair, but it’s expected,” said Jennifer Morales, Peanut’s cousin. “With so much that has been thrown under the rug for so long, it would have been nice to have some kind of justice for him, but all we can do is hope something changes later on and that it can save other children from what is happening to them. ”

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