Investigation Moves to DA and Attorney General

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Last week, the Woodland Police Department completed its investigation into the April 30 shooting of Luis Gutierrez by Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy.  The report was sent to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office who will review the case along with help from the state Attorney General’s Office.

On Monday, community activists however continued to call for an independent investigation into incident.  Al Rojas along with another 10 to 15 residents at a press conference outside of the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in Woodland, suggested that there was a functional difference between the review that is going on, and investigation.

An investigation would start anew the process that the Woodland Police Department completed.  Whereas a review simply looks over what has already been completed.

According to Mr. Rojas:

“Review and investigation are two separate things.  The investigation is being done by the Woodland Police Department.  We have been calling for an independent investigation.”

He went on to argue that:

“So far no one has accepted the idea of an independent investigation.  Because police are involved in this investigation, how can the people be assured that there has been equal justice under the law when police agencies are investigating police agencies?”

He also believes that since the District Attorney supervises the gang enforcement, that they are not a neutral party in this.  Now Jeff Reisig will be the person who reviews the investigation that the police department just completed.

Adding fuel to the anxiety and frustration of many were the comments made by Woodland Police Chief Carey Sullivan last week at the Woodland City Council meeting when he called those calling for an independent investigation, “hypocritical.”

“The men and women in the Woodland Police Department have been working many long and hard hours to complete this investigation. They have been collecting evidence and doing so objectively and fairly.  We have not engaged in a public discussion of this issue in order not to taint this investigation. The integrity of this investigation is of utmost importance to us.

“I would like to say that it angers me when a person insults the integrity of this organization and this community by on one hand calling for a fair and objective investigation, and on the other hand calling the Woodland Police Department complicit with the Sheriff’s Department.  This is totally hypocritical statement. These officers are upholding the law and are dedicated to protecting the citizens of the city of Woodland, and they work long and hard at doing so.”

Al Rojas announced at the press conference on Monday that they would be delivering a letter to Chief Sullivan and request a meeting.

The letter in part reads:

As I recall, we attempted to approach you at the City Council meeting asking if the Woodland Police Chief was present, not knowing that you were the “Police Chief”.  At that time, you responded in a very angry tone of voice identifying yourself as the Police Chief.  I responded that we would like to talk to you if possible to meet with you and you became very angry and hostile.  You questioned my having made the statement of “complicity” when I was given the opportunity to speak during the Council’s ” Public comments” agenda item.

At that time you became enraged when I asked you to lower your voice, hostility, and anger towards me.  At which time you abruptly and very angrily in a loud voice stood up an ordered me by stating “come with me, lets step out side!” and I followed you out as did other witnesses who witnessed your attempt to provoke me.  I immediately reminded you not to threaten me nor point your finger at me and requested that you take control of your angry outburst in public,  and, requested that you respect me and those who were around you who also witnessed your unacceptable behavior along with your refusal to respond to our request “to meet with you regarding our concerns” while you responded with “Goodnight, I will not meet with you !!”

The letter goes on to request another meeting with the Police Chief.  The Vanguard will be meeting with Chief Sullivan this morning.

On Saturday, Supervisor Matt Rexroad on his blog stated that he believes only a very small group of people even care about this incident.

Now — I realize that 150-200 people really care a great deal — but I just don’t sense a large community outrage over the issue.  It is my sense that most of the people in Woodland certainly support the Woodland Police Department and even the Sheriff’s Department.  They view this shooting as one of those things that happens when you have a county of 200,000 people.

There certainly are some people that see a real problem here and I acknowledge that some of them are thoughtful people (not all of them).  However, my view is that the vast majority of people in Woodland are good to go.

He goes on to say:

What I hear time and time again is — bad things happen when you have a knife and are on drugs.

The District Attorney’s office is going to do their review and it may get considered by other law enforcement agencies.  However, I don’t see anything coming from all of this.

For the most part, I disagree with the Supervisor here.  As I reminded him, this is again not simply a Woodland issue.  Sheriff Ed Prieto is not the Sheriff of Woodland, he’s the Sheriff of Yolo County and the people I have spoken with, many of whom are from Woodland and probably have not spoken with Supervisor Rexroad, are very concerned about what happened.

As I have stated in the past, I do not think this issue merely comes down to “bad things happen when you have a knife and are on drugs.”

There continue to be key questions with the incident that I have laid out in the past.

First, why was Mr. Gutierrez approached in the first place.  And yes, I realize that police officers have the right to have consensual encounters, the problem is that if Mr. Gutierrez was not acting out of the ordinary, why would three plain clothes police officers dressed like gang members approach him?  Is that not asking for trouble.  The affidavit and warrant never explains why he was approached to begin with.

Second, at what point did Mr. Gutierrez credibly know that he was being approached by police officers rather than gang members?  If he believed the pursuers were gang members, he was likely not going to stick around long enough to check their identification.  A reasonable person in this case would probably run.

When Mr. Gutierrez runs, he is pursued by the officers who corner him.  Again, does he realize that these are police officers, because if he believes they are gang members it is reasonable that he would attempt to defend himself.

Many I have spoken to question whether it takes a fatal gun shot to disarm one man with a knife.  So that is another question that must be addressed.

As I stated last week, Chief Sullivan needs to understand there is anxiety and frustration in some segments of the community.  THe issue is not whether the Woodland Police are honest or trustworthy–they may very well be both.  The need for independence arises because you want there to be no doubt that all stones have been turned over in this investigation, that there is zero possibility of things being overlooked.  It is part of the process that enables all of the public to trust the outcome regardless of the findings.  These comments that Mr. Rojas and others make are not intended to insult the Woodland Police Department but rather to press the issue so that there can be no doubt what the truth is.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Investigation Moves to DA and Attorney General”

  1. martin

    There is no independent party that can make an objective investigation of this issue if there aren’t witnesses who haven’t been interviewed yet. It would be nice if there was some evidence that is being concealed that an independent investigator could evaluate, but if there isn’t, we will never know more about this incident. The continuing calls for an independent investigation seem to be from someone who has told the people who are marching that there is some other information that the police are concealing. Otherwise, I don’t know why they are marching to public meetings and demanding a further investigation?

    There are other unresolved police issues in Yolo County as well as in other parts of the United States. It would be nice if there were some way to go back in time and observe the events to determine if anything wrong happened. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this. Currently, we all have the available information about this unfortunate incident, and this information is not adequate to determine whether the police acted inappropriately. So, we can fire all the police officers and hire new ones, or we can just accept the fact (I believe that this is a fact) that we will never know what happened.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Martin:

    I disagree. You start an investigation with hard questions for the officers involved and try to discern contradictions in their stories. You may in the end be right, but I would like to see someone other than the police department interviewing the witnesses. I have spoken at length to people who do this sort of thing for a living and they will tell you that interviewing the officers is often a key means by which to discern if they are telling the truth.

  3. Fed Up W Rexroad

    “Now — I realize that 150-200 people really care a great deal — but I just don’t sense a large community outrage over the issue…However, my view is that the vast majority of people in Woodland are good to go…
    What I hear time and time again is — bad things happen when you have a knife and are on drugs…However, I don’t see anything coming from all of this.”

    I would say 150 – 200 people EXPRESSING CONCERN is a significant number in the community. I would also say if you don’t think so, it is because YOU DON NOT WANT TO SEE ANY PROBLEM.

    BAD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU HAVE A KNIFE AND ARE ON DRUGS??? How do you know the man was on drugs? Pulled a knife? Because the police/coroner said so? Then how was this man able to pass a driver’s test that night? We only have the police’s word that this man pulled a knife.

    The circumstances surrounding this “stop” are very questionable. Undercover police, without any uniforms on, are stopping a citizen minding his own business, walking home from taking a driver’s test. Don’t you have any concern for citizens, stopped by disguised policeman, undercover cops (who most likely are dressed like gang members) who may appear to be a threat to the average citizen who would have no way of knowing it was the police? What is this, “open season” on anyone who MIGHT LOOK LIKE a gang member? By the way, I am a Caucasian conservative. I find your lack of interest in this case very troubling and telling. We know where your loyalties lie – with law enforcement, no matter what.

    Secondly, we just had a tasering incident by the Woodland police, who recently killed another innocent citizen by “piling on”. And you want to trust an investigation like this to the Woodland Police? You have got to be kidding?! It is time for law enforcement to take a good hard look at their police tactics, and rethink them. Just as choke holds in the Los Angeles Police Dept. were eventually outlawed bc of too many resultant deaths, so should “overkill” by Woodland/Yolo County law enforcement.

    Law enforcement needs to think about the institution of less lethal techniques first, if the citizen is clearly not a considerable threat. In the case of the mentally unstable citizen, was the behavior so dangerous to the public, that it required multiple tasering and “piling on”? Did the Guitierrez shooting require 6 gunshots by 3 officers to take down a man defending himself with a knife? Reminds me of the case in New York, where the undercover gang unit shot a citizen pulling out his cell phone – 37 times. This undercover gang thought they were in the right too – but were disbanded as too over the top. THINK ABOUT IT, MR. REXROAD.

  4. What if it had been your loved one?

    Supervisor Rexroad, would you have the same reaction if this had been your friend, relative killed by law enforcement. If your answer is yes, then I would say you are a very, very cold-blooded person. It takes a man to admit mistakes.

  5. alphonso

    Killing people is fundamentally a flawed behavior. It is simply wrong to assume “it is part of the job” when police officers kill but it is a crime when anybody else kills. We are better off starting with a completely negative perspective regardless of who does the killing – something horrible has happened and it needs to be prevented in the future period. Future prevention starts with an honest and trusted investigation – anything short of that is a failed process.

  6. Matt Rexroad

    Measure J Post Comments = 55
    Shooting in Woodland Post Comments = 5

    This further proves my point. Even if this makes #6.

    Matt Rexroad
    662-5184

  7. Bob Peel

    Some observations that make me wonder about whether we need to employ the term hypocrisy with regard to the author of this article and some of his commentators.

    1) Why would “dressed like gang members” (though I’ll separately take exception to that characterization in a moment) condemn the three deputies to be taken less seriously for the job that we asked them to do. When police officers make assumptions about citizens based solely on their appearance you are quick to yell bias and profiling. To use that same supposedly flawed basis for action as justification for Gutierrez’s actions is hypocritical.

    And once things went to pot out there on the street, and Gutierrez started running away from the officers, I know, and so does every one of you that has ever seem a cop chasing a criminal, the officers were yelling “Stop Police! Stop Police!” It’s drilled into them from their first days in the academy. It’s as much a part of their way of life—rote without even thinking about it—just like when they utter, “You have the right to remain silent…” after each and every arrest. Not much thought goes into it. It just comes blurting out.

    And for those of you who have spent a much time in gang neighborhoods (I have), when have you ever seen gang-bangers chasing their victim yelling, “Stop Police!”? You never have. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of the other 199,800-199,750 concerned and conscientious Yolo County citizens (200,000 minus the 150-200), that Gutierrez was tweaking and either new it was the cops or was incapable of understanding that fact, simply because of what he did to himself, not what the officers did. That should scare all of us and we should be thankful that the cops encountered Gutierrez and not any of us since, if not for the cops, he might have tripped on down the street and encountered one of us or one of our kids and used his knife on that person who wouldn’t have had the benefit of us having a gun to defend with.

    2) Just what is this “gang attire”? From what was described, the cops were merely wearing street clothes, which of course bear a striking similarity to the street clothes that many gang members wear. While wearing marked police clothing may seem to be an obvious solution to these sorts of problems once you know what the end result will be, it fails to recognize the duties police must perform. They are expected by us to observe and interdict crime.

    Common sense tells anyone who isn’t being ridiculously simple-minded that wearing plainly marked clothing and driving obvious police vehicles makes it very, very difficult, if not impossible to blend into the community and catch people committing crimes. That is part of what we want the police to do. We as a society would be very, very dissatisfied if the police only responded to crimes once they were committed. We truly want them seeing the precursors to criminal activity and preventing the crime before it occurs, when possible.

    3) Now, considering argument #2 and going the next step to address the flawed logic of judging an action based on the result: If we accept that police should mix in the population while wearing clothes that allow them to blend in and then take action when they are lawfully able and expected to, then why would we suddenly find it to be unacceptable for them to be dressed in plain clothes when the outcome is different than the thousands and thousands of other outcomes, not tainted, as this one was, by the aberrant actions of a person whose judgments throughout most of his life were flawed.

    This is another one of those cases that we read about in the newspaper or see on the nightly news, where some irresponsible person, with a history of using poor judgment, who has spent their life getting in trouble, gets killed and then the family always says the same thing (you’ve heard it dozens of times (like it’s the grieving gang-banger family script): “They were just turning their life around.” When are the family, friends, community activists, etc. going to start telling the truth, first to the poor potential unfortunates and then to the news purveyors who could communicate a truly public service to all those future potential tragedies-in-the-making: “I told him that if he didn’t stop acting the fool he was going to end up dead. He just didn’t listen.” The apologists in this tragedy are compounding the tragedy because some valuable lessons are being obscured by the self-serving antics of a few who capitalize on the ignorance that infests parts of our communities.

    So, get a life and move on. This ain’t the Rodney King incident and no one is going to get famous over this man’s death.

  8. Ryan Kelly

    In Woodland – three gang task force officers with guns against one man running away with a 4 inch pocket knife = man dead with a bullet to the head.

    In Davis – one bike officer vs one man violently attacking, wielding a broken wine bottle = man in custody. (The officer’s gun stayed in its holster.)

    It just make one question what happened in Woodland.

  9. The Realist

    It seems early to assume anything. Assuming that the police officers were dressed like gang members does not seem like a solid fact. (unless it was reported that way and I have not heard about it) I have seen the gang task force in action. My experience was they were in unmarked cars, but wearing clearly identifying clothing with “POLICE” in big yellow letters on the front and back and a badge hanging from their neck.

    Not sure it was the case here, but how can we assume they were looking like gang members?

  10. Anon

    “This ain’t the Rodney King incident and no one is going to get famous over this man’s death.”

    Your attitude is scary, quite frankly.
    1) If a private citizen is walking home one evening, after passing their driver’s test, and is stopped by three men claiming to be police, but the three instead look like gangbangers, is it reasonable to expect the private citizen to stop and be submissive? I’m not sure I would have been, and I have never committed a crime in my life. Are you saying that if anyone identifies themselves as a police officer, they should be obeyed, even if there is no other indication they are law enforcement than saying “Stop, police!”?
    2) How would you know what gangbangers do? Would you have thought terrorists would use cell phones, steal airline pilot uniforms, and act as suicide bombers flying jet planes into buildings? Just because you are a former policeman doesn’t give you a lock on all knowledge in the streets. Nor can you possibly know what was going on in the victim’s mind at the time of the shooting. I don’t think it is a stretch to think he might have thought he was being accosted by gang members claiming to be police, based on the FACT the three police officers in question were not dressed in uniform, but were probably dressed to look like gangbangers (unclear from law enforcements’ version of events – they leave that detail out).
    3) It almost sounds as if you feel this guy’s life was worthless, bc he was on drugs and might have been a gang member. So what are you saying, it is open season on anyone who looks like a gang member? Cops get to shoot anyone who might look like a criminal? The police get to be judge, jury, and executioner, if they see fit?
    4) Police have a right to do undercover work, but is it wise to break cover when no obvious crime is being committed? Does there need to be a change in police procedure, like the ban of chokeholds in the Los Angeles Police Dept? It does not seem reasonable police procedure to allow undercover police to roust citizens, when dressed to look like gang members. It is a recipe for precipitating tragedy. Policemen wear uniforms for a reason – so that citizens understand when stopped, it is law enforcement and not some street thug accosting them.
    5) All the questionable killings seem to happen in Woodland, which gives the impression that law enforcement there is out of control. Once you enter Woodland as a law enforcement officer, it seems as if the cop is free to roam at will in plainclothes or uniform, stop citizens for any reason (there is supposed to be articulable suspicion before a private citizen is stopped), and shoot to kill or “pile on and suffocate”, rather than make any attempt to use less lethal forms to subdue/capture.

  11. Anon

    Matt Rexroad: “Measure J Post Comments = 55
    Shooting in Woodland Post Comments = 5

    This further proves my point. Even if this makes #6.”

    Red herring! If you are dismissive of 200 Woodland citizens outrage, that says to me you are hardened to public comment, and are completely in the law enforcement camp – w/o questioning anything they do. You need to keep a more open mind.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    I will point out as I did for Mr. Rexroad that this was the sixth article on this subject and if you look at currently the most read article it was on the march. So I think to infer from a small number of comments that there is no interest is false, but obviously yesterday Measure J and surrounding issues elicited more response. One thing I have found is that the most read articles are not always the most commented articles.

  13. Moving On...!

    Oh com’on who cares that some guy was shot by three sheriffs? It’s just another none-white individual, this guy had it coming. All people who are on drugs and have a knive better know that if they’re approached by officers they’re going to get killed and it won’t matter one bit whether they’re committing a crime or not. I mean seriuosly, Woodland or the whole Yolo County doesn’t care. That’s why people didn’t show up at the vigil right? That’s why people didn’t show up at the community meetings right? That’s why people aren’t keeping up with this issue right? I’m like so tired of this case. This family has others kids, they can easily replace Luis. Jesus Christ what a bunch of cry babies. Quit making a big deal out of insutionalized racism. The earlier you accpet it as part of your life package, the better. Listen to THE hidden message of Mr. Sullivan’s statements: I DON’T CARE AND NEITHER YOU SHOULD YOU =D

    [for those who didn’t catch my tone of sarcasm…it’s there, read this a second time]

  14. To Mr. Rexroad

    Measure J Post Comments = 55
    Shooting in Woodland Post Comments = 5

    This further proves my point. Even if this makes #6.

    Shooting questions need answers:278!!!!!

    http://www.topix.com/forum/city/woodland-ca/TK8DJGB0CD4G2HJTV/p5

    Sorry Mr. Rexroad,
    Here is a piece of advise; never assume your audience is less intelligent than you and easily mislead. 278 viewers, I want to hear what silly excuse you have to explain this.

    Here is some advice: It is probably in your best interest to avoid this subject completely, it is very possible that corruption could have taken place in the sheriffs office. By making high strung remarks and addressing the issue in a cunning manner you risk being identified with the case. Worst case scenario, Ed is investigated by the FBI, he is charged for corruption while you’re left leading his cheering squad through your 2010 election. Best case scenario, nothing is wrong, your arch nemesis really doesn’t lose anything, plus you lose the support of a very strong-willed group of Yolo residents.

    Come on Matt, the more you get involved the more you dirty your hands.

    In my personal opinion, i think if Ed goes down for corruption you will probably be the next person investigated. Don’t cheer for the losing team.

  15. Rexroad FAIL

    Rexroad has become a parody of himself. His positions are entirely partisan, shallow in thought and action, as he whines from behind the dias on the losing end of 3-2 or 4-1 votes. In this way, he is completely ineffective and not a good representative of Woodland.
    A hallmark of achievement is actually getting things done, not being a lone voice of opposition.

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