The concerned parties are as diametrically opposed as we have come to expect in an officer-involved police shooting: a family grieving over a lost son, a lone police officer sure he was in a fight for his gun – and discharging his weapon when charged by a man he’d never met.
Details of the night 24-year-old Richard Perez III died at the hands of Richmond Police Officer Wallace Jensen were released in a report on the incident requested by the Richmond City Council.
In it, District Attorney Mark Peterson cites the findings of his investigators and statements from witnesses, to detail the events leading up to Perez’s shooting and subsequent death inside Uncle Sam’s.
The store itself was the initial focus of Wallace Jensen’s night covering Beat 3 in Richmond’s Southern District, the stripped down, no-frills business at 3322 Cutting Blvd. the source of many complaints to police about people loitering and drinking outside.
Peterson’s report states that Jensen, wearing a “standard Richmond Police Department utility uniform,… his handgun in a nylon holster which hung down on his right thigh,” left his canine partner in his running car around the corner on Stege Avenue and approached Uncle Sam’s on foot. Perez’s family members have said Jensen was not carrying his “non-lethal” arms – baton, Taser – that night, choosing to leave them behind, but Peterson’s report stated he was carrying a Taser and a Streamlight flashlight in a “sap” pocket beneath his pants pocket.
Jensen told investigators that as he approached Uncle Sam’s he saw a group of people standing outside and four begin to walk toward Carlson Boulevard as he neared. The officer told investigators he was walking back toward his car when a Middle-Eastern man believed to be an employee of the store came out to report a young man, later identified as Perez was “causing problems” in the store, pointing out Perez to the officer.
According to the report, Perez – known to friends and family as “Pedie” – saw the officer and mumbled something Jensen couldn’t make out. Jensen approached Perez and saw that he was swaying from side to side.
Jensen asked Perez to walk outside and sit on the curb, further asking for identification. Perez, according the report, complied – but said his ID had been taken by another officer during a prior contact the night before. Jensen was contacting a colleague to verify Perez’s story when Perez stood up and started walking away, some witnesses saying he had uttered an epithet and said “I’m done” before walking off in a westerly direction.
Everyone seems to agree Jensen caught up to Perez, grabbed him by the arm, and used a takedown move to bring the smaller man to the ground. Jensen was attempted to gain control of Perez’s arms, in order to control his movements, while simultaneously calling for backup via his radio. Thursday’s report, however, said Jensen’s call for assistance went unheard as he was on the wrong channel during his struggle with Perez.
The report states that Perez was able to regain his footing, Jensen again ordering him back on the ground until the officer used another grappling move to once again take Perez down – at which time the officer said he lost his grip on Perez’s arm and felt the younger man’s right hand on his left forearm. As they struggled, Perez flailing his arms and legs, Jensen said he felt the younger man tugging at his pistol – both of them standing up and facing off – but with Perez’s hand still on his holster.
Investigators said Jensen told them he hit Perez in the chest as he “feared Perez was going to get his gun to kill him.” Jensen said the two separated and that he drew his gun, keeping it in the “Position of Retention” close to his body – when Perez reportedly charged him.
Jensen fired once, estimated that the two men were only a few feet away from each other with Jensen trying to back up and put more distance between them – when Perez reportedly charged him again. The officer told investigators he fired again, holding his pistol with one hand, and that he again attempted to back away – bringing his weapon up with both hands – and ordering Perez to stop.
It was at that point, the report found, that Perez charged the officer a third time, was hit by a single round to the chest and bent over, stumbling back inside Uncle Sam’s and collapsing. As it turned out, there were two recordings of the incident – one captured by the store’s security cameras and the other from a civilian witness.
Despite protestations from the Perez family and some questions posed by members of city government and the public at large, Peterson said “the evidence indicates that Officer Jensen believed that he was faced with the choice of using his weapon against Mr. Perez, or having Mr. Perez use it against him.”
Little could be found to explain why Perez opted to act as he did. A toxicology report determined that at the time of his death his blood alcohol concentration was a hefty .247 – more than three times the presumptive limit for intoxication in California drivers.
Perez, it was determined, had had a few minor scrapes with the law, and may have mentioned that he would someday die at the hands of a police officer, but his family downplayed those events and said the statement was taken out of context.
Peterson’s office declined to charge Officer Jensen in January 2015, and Perez’s family alleged that the investigation into the incident had failed to include the testimony of witnesses whose accounts of events differed from those of police.
The Perez family filed a civil rights lawsuit following the shooting, and settled with the city for $850,000 in February. According to a news release, the city did not admit any liability in the incident and instead agreed to settle to “avoid the costs associated with further litigation and/or a trial.”
A man stumbles into a store and dies at their feet and the customers are more concerned with getting their alcohol. Life can be cheap.
So many tragedies in the news this past week! It’s a very tough time to be a cop. But I want to go on the record that I fully support law enforcement and I always cooperate with them and therefore I don’t have trouble.
( they even used to teach us that in grade school here, that we had to obey the police and if there was an issue we can see them in court later , but you did cooperate and give them respect ) I’m sorry for the events of this past week, on all fronts.
I respect police and I thank them for their Brave work. Their job is not easy and especially the last few years during which time the government seems to have turned their back on them men and women in blue. But they’re my heroes and I thank them!
Can you imagine what society would be like without them?? That would be Carnage on the streets and as good citizens would be totally victimized. Thank you long for some officers!
Imagine yourself in a fight for your life. Not a fight for a parking place. Not an argument over a bill. Imagine yourself fighting for your life and then imagine or try to what you would do to win. We ask a lot of the police. Most of them measure up in an amazing way. Dallas has changed some things I think. I’m hoping some will be good.
Maybe we’ll see this degree of transparency going forward. I hope so.
Not cooperating with the police has been around forever, and I don’t think what happened in Dallas will change anything. Sadly, there will always be the criminal element, and people who have no respect for law enforcement.
The only difference is the 24/7/365 media exposure. And that’s a good thing.
Is that the usual amount of concern by police for the shooting victim? Let him bleed?
Is that normal police procedure? Tackle the drunk while you have a loaded weapon strapped to your leg and your partner is sitting in the car, all so that the drunk can’t walk away? The officer has a radio but can’t reach his partner because he is unprepared. He finds drunks at a convenience store at 1:15 am. which is what you might expect to find and is unable to use his radio or control his weapon. It is scary to think that this guy was authorized to use lethal force. Another unnecessary shooting.
If the shooting victim had been the partner or a friend of the police officer do you think he would have rendered aid? I don’t even see anyone lean over to check his vitals, let alone attempt to stop the bleeding or comfort him. He just seems to be a piece of meat on the floor. I have no explanation for that. What is the likelihood that these police officers live in the city they “protect and serve” or have any connection to it outside of their day jobs. The slogan rings hollow in cases like this.
All that I know about the case is what is described here and in the video.
What I find interesting, and I think it took me a few years to figure this out, it is those who are always criticizing the cops are those that have had a lot of brushes with the law or unpleasant interaction. So I understand where they’re coming from and frankly , don’t put much Credence in what they say, as it’s un fairly biased. If there were no cops, it would be bedlam and Mayhem. The criminals would have a field day and dominate the rest of us good citizens. He would be hell on Earth.
2 things: the boy was def drunk and the police and people in the story didn’t exactly put themselves out trying to help him.
What some people fail to realize (they don’t want to get it) is you cooperate with the police (at all times) or you put yourself in a position of being shot. If law enforcement feels their life is in danger, and they have a choice of their life or yours… you will lose. They have families to go home to at the end of their shift.
The only way this will end is if everyone respects the police. And the criminal element and certain communities never will. Sad, but true.
Something tells me Uncle Sams isn’t the place you go to for a nice Chardonnay. Life in depressed areas takes on a certain rhythm of its own with people acting in ways people who don’t live there find shocking. Calling in a police force to try and keep peace in areas like this frequently ends in confrontations most of those lucky enough to live elsewhere can’t begin to imagine.
The shooting victim was stumbling drunk and unarmed. The officer escalated the confrontation and created a situation he could not control. He had no baton, and his partner was sitting in the patrol car unaware because the officer was unprepared. This was not smart police work. The arrest was bungled, and the man died because of it. Of course, the officer has a right to defend himself, but based upon the info presented, this was a botched arrest. The loud, obnoxious drunk is dead. To whom was he a threat before the officer escalated the confrontation into a life or death struggle.
The fact that this is often accepted as normal police procedure in tough areas is part of the problem. As a side note, do you think that a smaller, female police officer would have been so quick to escalate this to violence? I am guessing that other skills would have been employed instead to effect an arrest.
@Greg: Sorry to disturb your way of thinking with a contrary fact, but I have no criminal history. I have empathy, empathy for the not-so-good police officer in a struggle for his life, and empathy for the drunk bleeding out on the floor of Uncle Sam’s, dying all alone, abandoned, while shoppers and police mill about.
The officer’s partner is a dog. He was a canine officer.
Yeah, either they updated the story or I misread that. In any case, the point was made in the story that the officer was incommunicado due to using the wrong channel. Without a partner in the car, support may not have been as immediate, but this was an arrest for public drunkenness at that point. What’s the hurry? All the more reason not to escalate to violence, but that is hind sight, and that is the reason police departments develop procedures to avoid this kind of jeopardy for both the officer and the drunks, or the mentally ill, that they have to contend with.
“Pedie” was known locally. He wasn’t exactly a flight risk.
Do you have the video taken by the civilian witness?
So a contact for drunk in public turns into a fight over the officer’s gun and the man’s death. He wasn’t armed and apparently he’d “had enough.” The officer says he was trying to get the officer’s gun and if that’s true that’s a definite escalation of the situation by the suspect. But in the eyes of people who live there it’s a case of another unarmed man shot and killed after a contact with police. And no one — police or otherwise — was exactly rushing to help him after he was down. Some would have us believe that the police are out there cruising for people to shoot and I don’t believe that, but there is something in their training or street conditioning that makes this sort of thing a fairly frequent occurrence.
Tough situation. I would try to address the issue before getting in to a “thought he was going for my gun” scenario. My solution: discourage physical force by cops to subdue uncooperative suspects unless cops have overwhelming force. Any 1:1 fight can escalate into “self defense” for the cop who picked the fight. Taser is better than wrestling. Pointing gun at perp until backup arrives is better. If no evidence that perp is violent and he runs away, let him go. Use body-cam audio/video to track guy down later.
The line between thug and police officer is a thin one. Police officers should be psychologically evaluated and profiled yearly to ascertain that they recall on which side of the line they belong. All we need do is look at Oakland PD (Sex with an underage minor is a no-no last time I checked.) to be reminded how far off the rails police officers can run.
“( they even used to teach us that in grade school here, that we had to obey the police”
I hope they don’t teach that nonsense any longer. I don’t fund schools to perpetuate the myth that a police state is the ideal way of life. And, I remain glad our districts are one of the few that have resisted the urge to place police inside our schools.