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Video release renews California police shooting controversy

 

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Published 11/29/2019 | Reading Time 1 min 51 sec

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Release of video showing a California police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager 2½ years ago has renewed controversy over the killing as a lawsuit heads toward trial next year.

The video shows Fresno Police Department Sgt. Ray Villalvazo shooting 16-year-old Isiah Murrietta-Golding as he ran from officers on April 14, 2017, when they attempted to stop him for investigation of a homicide the day before.

The video was released in October by attorney Stuart Chandler, who represents the teen’s family in a lawsuit claiming excessive and unlawful deadly force, The Fresno Bee reported.

The shooting was deemed justified by the Fresno County district attorney’s office, police internal affairs and the city of Fresno’s Office of Independent Review.

The video was recorded by a security camera at a daycare.

It shows Murrietta-Golding climb over a high fence into the daycare property, start to run with his left hand appearing to touch his clothing near his waist. He then was shot and fell immediately. At that moment, an officer was climbing over the fence and Villalvazo was still on the other side of the fence.

“There absolutely is no way the officer’s life was in danger,” Chandler told the Bee. “He was running away and he was trying to hold up his pants.

Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall said in a statement Wednesday that the daycare video shows a different vantage point than Villalvazo had, and that the teen was known to carry a gun.

“The video released yesterday is an officer-involved shooting that occurred over two years ago. The use of lethal force in this case occurred while officers were investigating a homicide,” the statement said. “The 16-year-old in this case was involved in the homicide with his brother and the brother was later arrested and pled guilty.”

Former Police Chief Jerry Dyer said in 2018 that the internal police investigation determined that Villalvazo’s actions were within department policy, and that the shooting was justified because the teen was a suspect in the killing of Eugenio Ybarra, 19.

Dyer said that Villalvazo feared that he was going to be shot when he fired one round.

Cesar Casamayor, a community organizer with Fresno Barrios Unidos, told the Bee the footage shows police were not in danger.

“He’s reaching to pull up his pants that are falling down,” Casamayor said. I don’t understand how in any way, shape or form, he’s a threat to the cops,” he said.

Fresno Police Officers Association members believe the shooting to be justified, according to union president Todd Fraizer.

“This was escalating quickly,” he said. ”(The sergeant) was chasing a potential murder suspect who was hopping a fence into a daycare.”

The trial of the civil lawsuit is scheduled for October 2020.

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