From: San Jose Mercury News
By David DeBolt 9/19/14
RICHMOND — The officer who shot and killed a 23-year-old Richmond man during a struggle outside a liquor store was identified Friday as Wallace Jensen, a K-9 officer with nearly seven years on the force.
The officer’s name and the initial findings of the victim’s autopsy report were released by Capt. Mark Gagan.
As an officer assigned to the city’s southern district, Jensen went to clear out a group of people who were loitering at Uncle Sam’s Liquors and Deli at Cutting and Carlson boulevards about 12:15 a.m. Sunday.
There, Jensen ran into Richard Perez. Police said the two had a verbal, then physical altercation during which Perez pinned Jensen to the ground.
During the struggle, Perez held on to one of the officer’s hands and tried to grab his gun, police said. The two men momentarily broke apart from each other, and Jensen shot Perez three times, according to police. Perez died outside the liquor store.
According to Gagan, Jensen is a member of the department’s crisis negotiation team. As part of that unit, Jensen had quarterly training on dealing with potentially violent situations. Jensen has no previous record of discipline with the department or substantiated allegations of inappropriate use of force, Gagan said.
But the shooting was not the first time Jensen has fired his service weapon. In September 2009, Jensen and his partner, Kristian Palma, fired five shots while chasing Joe Blacknell III, a gang member who the officers said was armed. All of the bullets missed, according to Jensen’s testimony in Blacknell’s 2012 trial, which was covered by Richmond Confidential. The shooting was the first time Jensen fired his gun on duty, the online news service reported.
In 2012, Blacknell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a crime spree that included murder, multiple counts of attempted murder, carjacking and street gang terrorism.
The shooting of Perez remains under investigation by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, but on Friday Gagan said a preliminary autopsy report shows Perez was shot three times in the front of his body. A toxicology report has not been completed, Gagan said.
Police Chief Chris Magnus has said the fight physically exhausted Jensen, and the officer said he feared Perez “would overpower him and get his gun.”
Jensen remains on paid administrative leave. His attorney, Terry Leoni, said her client is an experienced officer who is “trained to talk subjects down and use force as a last resort.”
“In this case, he feared for his life and thought the suspect was going to take his gun and kill him,” Leoni said.
The shooting was the first fatal shooting involving a Richmond police officer since 2007.
A public memorial for Perez will be held Saturday at noon at Nicholl Park on Macdonald Avenue.
The event will also include a news conference and rally, announced by attorney John Burris. Burris said in a news release Friday afternoon that he has been retained by the Perez family and has witnesses who dispute that Perez was reaching for Jensen’s gun.
“He was actually down on the ground, and the officer was trying to handcuff him … but he clearly did not reach for his gun,” Burris said Friday.
Burris has represented other clients killed in officer-involved shootings, including Oscar Grant.
Perez’s aunt, Rhonda Reeder-Perez, has described her nephew as “a kind, loving and generous man” in posts on the Police Department’s Facebook page.
“He was not dangerous,” she wrote. “He was scared.”