Witnesses: Officer stepped back, gunned down California man outside liquor store
Family members plan to sue the police officer who shot an unarmed 24-year-old California man last week outside a liquor store.
Richard “Pedie” Perez was shot to death Sept. 14 by Richmond police Officer Wallace Jensen after he refused to show his identification.
A clerk called police to report that Perez, who had been drinking earlier in the evening at a party, had gone behind the counter and grabbed a bottle of Hennessy cognac without paying.
Police said Perez was drunk and belligerent outside Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store when the officer asked him to sit down for a records check, but he refused and then attacked him.
The two men rolled around on the ground during a struggle that lasted about one minute, and Jensen said Perez grabbed one of his hands and tried to reach his holstered gun.
“The physically exhausted officer, fearing the suspect would overpower him and get his gun, fired three shots at the suspect, striking him in the chest,” said Police Chief Chris Magnus.
Perez died from his wounds, and an autopsy showed he was facing the officer when he was shot three times in the upper torso.
Police said at least one independent witness can back the officer’s claims, but Perez’s family said other witnesses dispute the police account.
“Everyone has said consistently said that he did not reach for the officer’s gun and the officer stepped back five feet away and emptied five shots into his young body,” said civil rights attorney John Burris.
Police and prosecutors are still interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance video from the incident.
“The most damnable aspect of this to me, is this claim that he reached for the officer’s gun as a basis to justify the shooting,” Burris said. “That is a bold-faced lie.”
Jensen, a six-year veteran who is a trained crisis negotiator, was placed on paid administrative leave.
Perez frequented the liquor store and often bought alcohol or cigarettes for homeless people and others without money, relatives said.
“He hung around with so many different people that we thought he might get in trouble with them and get shot up that way, instead of by one of our finest,” said his father, Richard Pedro Perez Jr. “Kids out here are getting shot up all the time just by drive-bys and stuff. So that was a concern, but he had a good relationship with everybody.”
Perez was arrested Aug. 18 for firing his father’s handgun at the family’s recycling yard and charged with firing a handgun in city limits in a grossly negligent manner.
He was also questioned by police about a drive-by shooting attempt aimed at an acquaintance, but he denied any knowledge in the case.
Perez was arrested Sept. 12 on drunken-driving charges while sitting in a truck parked in front of the recycling lot and was released from jail the morning he was shot to death.
“I think part of the reason he was depressed that night was because he got another one [DUI] right here in front of the yard,” his father said.
Perez’s family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Jensen and the city of Richmond, and Burris plans to ask the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the officer.
“He’s only guilty of one thing that night — and that was being intoxicated,” his father said.
Watch this video report posted online by KGO-TV: