The Santa Barbara County District Attorney has concluded that the 2018 officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of Santa Maria resident Alejandro Valdez was a justifiable homicide.
The district attorney’s report comes almost two years after the shooting. At about 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2018, Olimpia Leon called 9-1-1, but before a translator came on the call to clarify why Ms. Leon called, her son, Mr. Valdez, told the dispatcher that he had knives in his hands, on his ankle, and on his chest. The dispatcher talked with Mr. Valdez for more than 30 minutes, during which he refused to identify himself, instead saying that he is “the son of God” and that the dispatcher can call him brother.
During the call, Mr. Valdez repeatedly said “I am ready to die tonight;” that he “will not be taken prisoner;” and “I’m dying tonight.” Mr. Valdez also told the dispatcher that the dispatcher did not know “whose throat I have the knife to right now, it might be my little brother, it might be my older brother.”
While Mr. Valdez was talking to the dispatcher, his brother Jose Sixto called 9-1-1 from another phone inside an apartment in the 400 block of Mill Street.
“I have a big emergency … can you please come. … Please hurry, because this guy is threatening to kill us,” said Mr. Sixto, who told the dispatcher that Mr. Valdez had been drinking but was not under the influence of drugs and did not have any mental health conditions. As Mr. Sixto was talking to the dispatcher, he was heard saying, “Oh s***.” The dispatcher asked what had occurred; Mr. Sixto does not respond, and the call ends.
When officers arrived at the apartment, the plan was to try to talk Mr. Valdez into surrendering. A crisis entry team of five officers — who were going to breach the door and enter the residence if need be — set up a perimeter. The team’s plan in the case that Mr. Valdez came out on his own was to back up, move out of the cinderblock-enclosed courtyard, and allow the team in front of the residence to engage.
Mr. Valdez came out of the door. The officers began to back up and move out of the courtyard, but before they could exit, Mr. Valdez entered the courtyard and moved quickly toward the officers with a pair of 8-inch bladed knives raised.
Officers yelled commands to drop the knives, which Mr. Valdez did not do. One officer shot Mr. Valdez with a less than-lethal foam baton launcher whose projectile hit Mr. Valdez in the upper right thigh but without effect. The four officers who were still in the courtyard then fatally shot Mr. Valdez.
Two days after the incident, forensic pathologist Manuel Montez conducted an autopsy. Dr. Montez observed a total of 19 gunshot wounds, to Mr. Valdez’s head, torso, neck and extremities with perforations of the brain, lungs, diaphragm, liver, intestines, stomach and pancreas. He also noted four graze wounds located on the jaw, chest and abdomen. Dr. Montez observed one less lethal impact weapon injury on Mr. Valdez’s right upper thigh.
The toxicology report indicated that Mr. Valdez’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.149, almost twice the level of 0.08 at which someone is considered legally impaired.
A detailed analysis of the DA’s conclusion can be read on www.countyofsb.org/da.