RICHMOND (CBS SF) — Richmond’s Police Community Review Commission approved a statement Wednesday night indicating that Officer Wallace Jensen violated departmental policy in the 2014 death of Richard “Pedie” Perez and that Jensen’s statements were inconsistent with evidence gathered at the scene of the crime.
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“The commission found, by clear and convincing evidence, the testimony of Officer Jensen attempting to justify his use of lethal force was inconsistent with the evidence presented to the commission,” commissioners said by unanimous vote Wednesday night.
“Jensen initiated physical violence directed at Mr. Perez despite Perez posing no threat to Jensen or anyone else,” the statement read. “Jensen was unable to physically dominate Mr. Perez and escalated to shooting his gun at Mr. Perez, causing his death.”
The shooting occurred on Sept. 14, 2014, outside of Uncle Sam’s Liquors at 3322 Cutting Blvd.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office in 2016 issued a report deeming the shooting justified even though Perez’s family had been vocal about their disagreement with the version of events released by police and prosecutors.
According to the district attorney’s office report, Jensen said he encountered Perez because of ongoing issues with loitering outside of the liquor store.
He said a store clerk there identified Perez as “causing problems.” He found Perez intoxicated, which the report states was confirmed in a coroner’s toxicology report.
Jensen said Perez was uncooperative and tried to walk away while being detained, which the officer responded to by using a judo move to take him to the ground. He tried to call police assistance using his radio but he was on the wrong frequency, according to the report.
During a subsequent fight, during which Perez freed himself and stood up multiple times, the officer allegedly felt Perez reaching for his firearm and trying to take it out of its holster.
When, according to Jensen, Perez continued trying to grab for his gun, Jensen shot him.
According to the commission’s independent investigation, however, DNA analysis showed no evidence that Perez had ever touched Jensen’s gun or holster.
It also disputed Jensen’s assertion that Perez was advancing on him when the weapon was discharged.
“Gunshot trajectory analysis shows that Mr. Perez was close to the ground and likely facing away from Officer Jensen when he was struck by the first bullet,” commissioners said.
“The investigator finds that there is evidence that Officer Jensen violated RPD’s Use of Force policies,” the statement’s conclusion reads. “Officer Jensen did not properly escalate his actions and his story regarding Mr. Perez lunging toward him to attack him and grab his weapon was found to be, at the least, embellished.”
The Perez family settled a lawsuit with the city of Richmond in February 2016 that was initially filed in an effort to have Jensen stripped of his firearm and his ability to carry a firearm. In the settlement, the city did not admit liability for the shooting.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office was under the leadership of Mark Peterson when it cleared Jensen of any wrongdoing in 2016. Peterson stepped down in November 2017 after pleading no contest to felony perjury charges.
A spokesman for Diana Becton, who was appointed to lead in the wake of Peterson’s departure and won re-election in 2018, issued a statement Thursday morning in response to the police commission, saying that after Becton’s appointment her staff reevaluated Perez’s killing but still did not file charges.
“After a thorough review involving multiple attorneys and senior inspectors, our office did not file any criminal charges against Officer Jensen. Our office can only bring charges when we believe that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the officer in question committed a crime. We could not meet this high standard based on the evidence. The Review Commission has a different legal standard. We must uphold the law and adhere to the strict requirements necessary to bring a criminal case.”
“That’s the same thing they told us,” said Rick Perez, Pedie’s father. “They wouldn’t be able to get a jury to convict him so they’re not going to try.”
“If it was the other way around, if someone killed an officer, they would insist it go to trial, and it would,” Perez said.
“I can almost forgive the officer that shot my son,” he added. “But I can’t forgive the institution that tries to cover it up no matter what.”
The public statement approved by Wednesday night’s vote closes out the complaint investigation process, in which the final disposition of the complaint must be communicated to Pedie’s family in writing. It has been roughly four years since they filed the complaint, according to Rick Perez.
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