CALEXICO — The Imperial County District Attorney’s Office has found that police officers acted lawfully during a domestic disturbance call that resulted in the fatal shooting of a man in late August.
In a letter to Calexico Police Chief Jim Neujahr dated Dec. 19, District Attorney Gilbert Otero wrote that he, as well as other office staff, came to the conclusion after review of the reports and photographs from the Aug. 30 incident.
Police received an initial call at 2:55 a.m. from Argelia Valenzuela who said her ex-boyfriend, identified as Julio Cesar Perez, 33, had come to her home where he previously lived to pick up clothing but refused to leave.
She said she didn’t want him to wake up her “girls” by yelling but added there wasn’t any physical violence. She only wanted Perez to leave.
Calexico Police Officer Miguel Carbajal arrived first on scene and saw Perez holding a weapon while running in his direction and began to drive away with Perez following at a short distance.
Carbajal requested assistance and then saw Perez holding knives to his neck, apparently “‘challenging’ the officer or attempting to entice Officer Carbajal to approach him,” according to the report.
The officer removed his AR-15 rifle and stayed away from Perez while waiting for assistance. He lost sight of Perez and requested that a perimeter be set up for containment.
“During this sequence of events, Officer Carbajal feels concern for his safety because Perez was armed with two knives, the poor lighting conditions, and he doesn’t know the location of Perez,” Otero wrote.
Calexico Officer Carlos Ramirez then arrived and also drew his AR-15 rifle, “because of the uncertainty regarding Perez’s whereabouts and believing Perez was holding a weapon.”
Both officers initially sought cover behind a patrol car’s doors, but Ramirez stepped away to get a clearer view of the residence.
“Suddenly, Perez is seen running, full speed, from the residence in the direction of both officers,” Otero wrote.
Ramirez ordered him to stop and get on the ground twice, but Perez ignored him and kept running, saying something to the effect of “shoot” and an obscenity, Otero added.
Ramirez said he walked backward from Perez, who had focused on him at this point, and “Carbajal fearing that Perez was going to stab Officer Ramirez discharged his weapon, aiming at Perez.”
At the same time, Ramirez fell backward, and as he fell, he fired his weapon at the same time as the other officer.
Perez was hit and died at the scene. The investigation couldn’t determine which of the officers’ shots caused the death, but Perez still had a knife clenched in his left hand and remnants of another knife were next to his body, Otero wrote.
The district attorney cites penal code explaining that the killing of another person by a police officer in self-defense is justifiable if the officer believes there is imminent danger that the suspect will either kill or cause great bodily injury and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of death or great bodily injury.
“The incident was thoroughly investigated and there is nothing in the reports of that investigation that indicate the shooting and discharge of their weapons by officers Carbajal and Ramirez was anything other than lawful,” Otero wrote.
The entire chain of events only lasted about 10 minutes with the initial call coming in at 2:55:50 a.m. and shots fired at 3:04:56 a.m.
Allegations by members of the public, including Adam Perez, who contacted the Imperial Valley Press in September that one of the officers was having an affair with Valenzuela, were not substantiated by the district attorney’s investigation, Otero explained.
The Calexico Police Department investigation of the incident corroborates the district attorney’s investigation. The shooting was the first officer-involved shooting for the department since 1989.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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