The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has completed its review of the officer-involved shooting which occurred on June 29, 2019. This incident happened in the city of Rialto and involved the Rialto Police Department. The shooting was investigated by the San Bernardino Police Department.


On June 29, 2019, at about 7:34 pm, Rialto Police Officer Michael Babineaux went to North Macy Street, between West Spruce Street and Foothill Boulevard, regarding a traffic stop that had been completed by another officer. The officer had transported the driver of a Jeep from the scene. Officer Babineaux was needed to coordinate the towing of the Jeep, which was to be impounded.

A tow truck arrived at about 8:00 pm, and the driver began the process of preparing the Jeep for towing. Officer Babineaux sat in the driver’s seat of his police car while he completed the paperwork for the impound. The police car was parked behind the Jeep and the tow truck.
Lawrence Ray Bender caught the attention of the tow truck driver and Officer Babineaux as he walked past the traffic stop. Mr. Bender sat on the curb across from Officer Babineaux.

Mr. Bender stood up, walked to the driver’s side door of the tow truck, and opened the door. The tow truck driver yelled, “hey.” Believing Mr. Bender may be trying to steal the tow truck, which had the Jeep connected to it, Officer Babineaux exited his police car and ran towards the tow truck’s cab, with his weapon drawn. Officer Babineaux pointed his weapon at Mr. Bender and ordered him to move away from the tow truck.

Mr. Bender refused to fully comply with Officer Babineaux’s orders, even though the officer was pointing his firearm at him. Mr. Bender would fluctuate between complying and not complying, very rapidly and without warning.

At one point, Mr. Bender was on the ground in a “push-up” style position. Officer Babineaux placed his foot on Mr. Bender’s back, between his shoulder blades, to control Mr. Bender. Officer Babineaux used his police radio to request emergency assistance from other police officers.

Mr. Bender struggled and quickly got up and came close to knocking Officer Babineaux’s weapon away. Officer Babineaux yelled, “I will shoot you,” at which time Mr. Bender placed his arms up and said, “I don’t have a gun.” Officer Babineaux again ordered Mr. Bender to lay on the ground.

Mr. Bender again moved to the ground. As before, Mr. Bender went down in a push-up position. Almost immediately after doing so, Mr. Bender motioned upward. Using his foot, Officer Babineaux pushed Mr. Bender down to the ground to create distance between himself and Mr. Bender. In response, Mr. Bender stumbled forward to the ground and unexpectedly rebounded back onto his feet, and said, “I got you.” He then made a jumping hook punch with his left fist at Officer Babineaux. As he did this, Mr. Bender said, “I got you.” Mr. Bender narrowly missed Officer Babineaux’s gun in doing so. Almost instantaneously, with Mr. Bender’s jumping hook punch, Officer Babineaux backed away and shot at Mr. Bender twice. Officer Babineaux believed Mr. Bender was trying to kill him, either by disarming him or knocking him out to use his gun against him.

Officer Babineaux updated the responding police officers and dispatch that he had shot Mr. Bender. Mr. Bender initially turned away from Officer Babineaux and fell to the ground, but he was able to quickly stand up, then fall forward onto the ground again.

Additional police officers arrived and began administering first-aid to Mr. Bender. He was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center to be treated for his injuries.


On October 9, 2020, Mr. Bender plead no contest to violating section 148(a)(1) of the California Penal Code, which specifies:

“Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician, as defined in Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797) of the Health and Safety Code, in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

Mr. Bender was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 454.


The San Bernardino County Police Department investigated this shooting. A review of the investigation, reports, evidence, and statements was completed by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

Based on the facts presented in the reports and the applicable law, our office concluded Officer Babineaux’s use of lethal force was a proper exercise of his rights of self-defense and defense of others, and therefore his actions were legally justified.


By providing a thorough explanation to the community regarding the review of officer-involved shootings, it is the intention of District Attorney Jason Anderson and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to maintain the community’s confidence and trust in its law enforcement officers and district attorney’s office.

Key Points of This Incident

  • Officer Babineaux and the tow truck driver were towing a vehicle in connection to an arrest.
  • Mr. Bender had no connection or involvement with the towing of the vehicle.
  • Mr. Bender approached the driver’s door of the tow truck, and without permission of the driver, opened the driver’s door.
  • Believing Mr. Bender was about to commit a crime, Officer Babineaux stopped Mr. Bender by giving him commands.
  • Mr. Bender failed to fully comply with Officer Babineaux’s orders.
  • Mr. Bender tried to swing at the officer and refused to remain on the ground.
  • Believing Mr. Bender would try to kill him, Officer Babineaux fired two rounds from his weapon to stop Mr. Bender.
  • Mr. Bender stopped only after having been shot.

Police officers are trained to respond to situations such as these, and they continually update their training as new situations and techniques are identified.

Additionally, police officers have equipment on their belts, vests, and vehicles, which they use to complete their duties.

Police officers are expected and authorized to use the equipment to protect themselves and others from suffering injuries or death. To some, watching a police officer using physical force against another person can be upsetting or disturbing.

Police officers prefer to use the least amount of force, whether it be their mere presence or verbal commands, to diffuse situations. However, there are situations, such as this incident, in which physical force is necessary for the community and police officers’ safety.

In rapidly tense situations, officers do not have a great deal of time planning, revising, or analyzing a situation, such as readers of this article. When a situation evolves, officers must make the best decisions possible to protect and save lives in a condensed amount of time.

The community expects that the people they call upon to protect them, which is the police, will not back down, be intimidated, or run scared when danger presents itself.

On June 29, 2019, Lawrence Ray Bender was solely responsible for the choices he made that day and the outcome of those choices. Mr. Bender decided to become involved in a law enforcement matter that had nothing to do with himself.

Mr. Bender decided to approach a tow truck, which had its engine on and open the driver’s door of the truck. Mr. Bender did not have any permission to be inside the truck. Fortunately, Officer Babineaux was able to intervene and stop Mr. Bender.

Had Officer Babineaux not stopped Mr. Bender, the ramifications could have been deadly. In his own admission during an interview with detectives, Mr. Bender admitted to being under the influence of methamphetamine. He did not know why he was trying to get into the tow truck, nor did he remember much about the entirety of the incident.

Being under the influence of methamphetamine is not an excuse for one’s own conduct. In fact, it hinders a person’s ability to make rational decisions.

With the Jeep partially attached to the tow truck, Mr. Bender being under the influence of methamphetamine, and his physical and objective symptoms and behavior, it would not be unrealistic to believe had he stolen the tow truck, there would be a great danger to the community.

While Officer Babineaux was attempting to safely detain Mr. Bender by having him lay on the ground, Mr. Bender decided not to comply with Officer Babineaux’s instructions.

Mr. Bender decided to attack Officer Babineaux by lunging at him, attempting to punch him, and trying to disarm Officer Babineaux.

Due to Mr. Bender’s decisions, Officer Babineaux lawfully defended himself and used the correct amount of force necessary to finally control Mr. Bender.

There is an extremely high probability this officer-involved-shooting would not have happened had any of the following occurred:

  • Mr. Bender did not use methamphetamine.
  • Mr. Bender did not interject himself into Officer Babineaux’s assignment.
  • Mr. Bender did not attempt to get into a vehicle he does not own or have permission to use, enter, or tamper with
  • Mr. Bender comply with Officer Babineaux’s lawful orders.
  • Mr. Bender did not resist Officer Babineaux.
  • Mr. Bender did not attempt to attack Officer Babineaux.

The Officer-Involved Shooting Review Team

The district attorney’s office has always reviewed officer-involved shootings in San Bernardino County.

Upon taking office, District Attorney Jason Anderson wanted a dedicated team of trained and experienced deputy district attorneys and investigators to review these shootings and respond to the scene of shootings.

The review unit did not respond to this shooting scene as the new team’s design and development and its protocols were still being developed.

Please visit to learn more about this team.

As the district attorney’s office, we realize the entire community is affected when force is used by a peace officer, regardless of the situation or circumstances. Our responsibility is to ensure that all parties involved in cases such as the one involving Lawrence Ray Bender acted lawfully.


No original news reports from the day this occurred were found for this incident.


View San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Public Release Memorandum: Lawrence Ray Bender


  1. The details of Mr. Bender’s court appearance are not in the memorandum as those proceedings were still occurring after the completion of this review.
  2. Although the written documentation of this review was completed on September 3, 2020, final review and assembly of this package was not completed until January 8, 2021.
  3. For the full dialogue between Officer Babineaux and Mr. Bender, please refer to the review memorandum. The purpose of this blog article is to provide a synopsis of this incident.
  4. A video of this incident is available through the Rialto Police Department. This video was not used in the review of this incident by our team, however; un-edited body-worn camera video of the incident was used in this review.