Police release bodycam video of shooting of elderly man who allegedly drove tractor at deputies in Denair

DENAIR, California — Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office [SCSO] has released bodycam video of deputies shooting an elderly man after he allegedly drove a Bobcat tractor at them and another car in Denair.

79-year-old Seo Myong Yang was shot after Sheriff’s deputies were called to his property at the 1700 block of North Gratton Road on November 8. Yang survived the shooting.

Deputies were told a man was standing in the middle of the roadway and not letting vehicles pass. Yang had a 2×4 as he yelled profanities at others, according to the SCSO.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said that deputies tried to talk with Yang at that time, but he got into a Bobcat tractor and drove away.

Deputies spoke with Yang’s wife, who said that he had been acting strangely and she’d decided to seek mental health treatment for him later in the week. 

The officers cleared the call since no crime had been committed, but were called back roughly 25 minutes later. On that second call, the SCSO said Yang was driving the Bobcat tractor in an “unsafe manner.”

In the video, deputies are seen arriving at the property and see the tractor with its lights on just behind a low wooden fence. An officer calls out to Yang, and the tractor turns off. 

Yang responds that he is “fine.” The rest of his words are difficult to hear, then he appears to say an expletive phrase and the tractor turns on again.

Yang, driving the tractor starts breaking down the fences on his property.

Another patrol car pulls up, as the officer speaking tells them to “back up…just create distance” from the tractor.

Several times in the bodycam footage, Yang, driving the tractor, approaches the patrol car.

A passing car also comes down the road, and the tractor seems to be blocking its way and jiggling the forklift mechanism.

He then turns, and appears to be driving away from the car when the officer shoots multiple times. 

At least 15 shots are heard as Yang’s tractor slowly drives down the road. The officer tells Yang to turn off the tractor and get out. Yang stayed in the tractor.

“I want to die,” Yang said. “How can I get out?”

According to SCSO, deputies spoke with Yang for more than five minutes, during which time Yang repeatedly demanded that the officers harm him.

Eventually, deputies approached the Bobcat, believing Yang would not turn it back on.

Video then shows Yang as he is handcuffed and police take him out of the tractor.

Yang was shot in the leg and was taken to the hospital.

He was later arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

Attorney Steve Katz, who has no ties to this case, feels the situation should have been handled differently. He said the man was not even driving the tractor at anybody when he was shot.

“There’s just no need to do this,” Katz said. “It’s, in my mind, an absolutely unjustified shooting, and I would be shocked if the district attorney files any charges for assault against the gentleman who was shot.”