One Witness Deported and Another Fled to Mexico After Gutierrez Shooting

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April-CRC-1

While a second round of hearings occurred on Sunday, without the committee receiving additional documents, Justice Cruz Reynoso indicated that this might be all they can do for some time.  As it was, two of the witnesses were reportedly too frightened to come forward and instead their testimony was read into the record Sunday afternoon in Woodland. (pictured above)  A third witness who apparently is the only witness to actually see the shooting has refused to come forward.

Meanwhile a toxologist told the Justice Reynoso that he needed to actually examine the blood  in order to make any definitive determinations about Luis Gutierrez’ level of intoxication.  Thus he did not come forward as a witness Sunday . The Justice indicated that while requests have been made for evidence, the County has informed them that the DA has partially re-opened the investigation.

No one is sure what the FBI is doing in terms of their reported independent investigation, as none of the witnesses have reported being approached by the FBI.

On Sunday, the panel heard from investigator Frank Roman who testified to what he found out about one of the witnesses from the DA’s report, Rudulfo Flores.  In addition, they heard testimony from two other witnesses who were on the bridge the day of the shooting.

Rudulfo Flores

Rudolfo Flores was a key witness in the DA’s report who identified Mr. Gutierrez as a gang member.

From the DA’s report:

“On June 1, 2009, Yolo Sheriff’s Office Deputy J. Lazaro contacted Flores at Woodland Memorial Hospital. At that time, Flores was in the custody of the Yolo County Sheriff. Flores told Lazaro the person who died was known as “Indian Gutierrez” because he was a good knife thrower. According to Flores, the deputy was lucky not to get killed because Gutierrez, who is a Sureño gang member, is a dangerous person and had said he would not let the cops take him.

On June 2, Woodland Police Department Detective Ron Cordova reinterviewed Flores. Flores advised he knew Gutierrez (Navarro) as a Sureño because since he (Flores) associates with Sureños. Gutierrez always carried a knife and was good with it. Gutierrez’s nickname was “Indio” because he was good with a knife. Flores knew Gutierrez used controlled substances and was considered dangerous.”

From the start we regarded this witness as suspicious.  First, Mr. Gutierrez had no criminal record which would seem odd for a guy who was a notorious knife thrower.  We would expect that a man of 26 years of age who was a notoriously dangerous knife thrower would have something of a criminal record, and yet Mr. Gutierrez only had some traffic violations on his.  Second, while Mr. Flores said that Mr. Gutierrez not let the cops take him into custody, the record shows 15 encounters by Mr. Gutierrez with the police and no incidents.

Frank Roman, the investigator, followed up and was not able to determine why Mr. Flores would even be in custody on June 1.  He did find an arrest dated July 1, 2009 for possession of heroin.  He also discovered a directive from the District Attorney’s Office to Decline to File charges for that possesion offense (a suspicious action in and of itself for those familiar with the DA’s track record for prosecuting cases).

Mr. Roman also spoke to a parole officer who dealt with Mr. Flores.  He was told by this parole officer that Mr. Flores had no known gang ties and spoke fluent English.

He also found out that Mr. Flores was deported to Mexico shortly after being released on July 2, 2009.

If the parole officer is correct that Mr. Flores had no known gang ties, then it is questionable as to how he would know that Mr. Gutierrez was a Sureno gang member.  This puzzling witness’ testimony has now become even more puzzling.

Two witnesses to what happened on the Bridge

Two witnesses came forward and gave testimony in private with their identities protected.  They are two sisters that lived in Woodland.  One of them has since moved to Mexico citing fear for her safety.  They would appear to be Latina females in their early to mid 20s based on some of the statements and their use of language in the interview.

The first witness was the passenger in the vehicle.  She says her sister, herself, and her sister’s two children were driving westbound on Gum Avenue towards the DMV.

She described observing one of the deputies.  At the time she did not know he was a police officer.  She described him as wearing “normal clothes.”  Later she said, “he was wearing black, like black jeans, black slacks and then like a black normal shirt.”  She continued, “I thought it was a regular person or involved into gangs or something.”  She did not see a badge, “I don’t recall seeing a badge.”

Mr. Gutierrez at that time was walking eastbound between the “fog line” and the curb.  He was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

He began running from the north side of the bridge towards the south side.  “I saw his face,” the witness said, “he was really scared.”  The one deputy was apparently chasing him.  The police car made a u-turn to move it towards an east bound direction.  It was an unmarked vehicle according to her description.

The Sheriff’s Deputy had a gun in his hand.  She did not know how far he was from Mr. Gutierrez but she guessed less than a car length or approximately seven feet upon closer examination by the interviewer.

Her sister saw more of what transpired, but this witness said they were really scared being caught in the middle of this potentially dangerous situation.  She did not hear the gun shots and did not realize that he had been shot and killed until the next day when it was in the newspaper and people were talking about it.

She said that she had only discussed it with her sister and her father.  “I have not talked to anybody, just me and my sister kept it and my dad.”  She said, “I never thought of calling them [the police] because I was so scared.  I don’t want to get involved into all this situation.”  She continued, “I am scared of the police,” but then said “There is not a specific [reason], I just don’t wanna get involved into cops, I’m just scared.”

She said she has never been arrested, does not know any gang members and is unfamiliar with gang activity in this city.  “I have never been arrested,” she said and added “[the police] are here to help us, but I’m just scared to get involved into all these situations.”

The second witness was her sister, the driver of the car.  She has since moved to Mexico and she saw quite a bit more, which makes sense given she would be on the side of the car closest to the action as they headed westbound.

She describes things somewhat differently, as the first sister described that she had not heard the gunshot, this sister describes that she had.  One thing to note is that these interviews occurred only a few weeks ago, nearly one year after the April 30 shooting of Luis Gutierrez and the witnesses were going off memory.  However, most of the details are consistent between the two.

The driver described the incident at length:

“I was driving toward the DMV as I was coming up the bridge I noticed that there was a guy wearing a white t-shirt running towards where I was driving, towards my, towards where I was at and then I saw another guy wearing dark colors, I believe they were black, coming, running in back of him,” the second witness said.

“At that point, I you know, I kept on driving and as I passed, as I was almost passing the guy that was wearing the white t-shirt,” she said and unlike her sister she noticed that the man had a badge and was an officer, “I noticed that there was a gun that the guy in back of him was holding, which after I saw the gun I noticed it was a cop. It was an officer, because I saw his badge right on his belt.”

Nevertheless she was scared, “I got very scared because I was driving. I had my two kids in the back of the car. I had my sister and myself. I was the one driving. I panicked when I saw the gun, um that was being pointed right at, at the first guy.”

She also described correctly Mr. Gutierrez’s attire.  “He was wearing the white t-shirt. I kept, I drove even faster. At one point, I kind of saw over my rear view mirror that he crossed the street and then that’s all I saw.”

Unlike her sister’s testimony she described hearing the gunshot and her sister hearing the gunshot.  “Then I heard a gunshot and I started screaming. I got panicked and my sister told me, “Oh my God, they just shot a guy.”” 

She continued, “I turned around and I mean, at that point, I honestly couldn’t really see anything. I kept on driving, scared. I couldn’t, I mean I got basically got really scared.”

While she clearly saw the officer’s badge and gun, she did not see a knife in Gutierrez’s hands.  She said, “I do not recall seeing anything on his hands.”  She continued, “I saw the gun that the cop had, and I think that if he would have, if he would have had anything I think I would have seen it.”  She later said, “I think that if I  was able to see a gun on the other guy’s hand, I am pretty sure I think I would have been able to see something on his hand, but I don’t recall seeing anything.”

She described the officer and Mr. Gutierrez as running fast.

She also described how she came to see the badge.  “I was passing, as I passed Luis, and I saw the gun, at the direction where the gun was, I looked a little bit down probably, and that’s where I saw the badge right at where the men wear their belt, so the officer had his badge on the belt.”

She then said that she got scared and thought, “oh my goodness they have somebody has a gun.”  But when she realized it was an officer, she felt better.  “Then I saw the officer, I honestly thought well it’s an officer.  I’m past it, he knows what he’s doing.  You know officers know what they do.”  She continued, “I just thought that probably the guy that, or the kid that was running, had done something very bad and you know all I was thinking of was is get myself out of here cuz I have my kids and my sister in the car.”

She heard a gunshot but said she had no idea that somebody had been shot.  “I didn’t know what to think. I just heard the gunshot and honestly what I thought is you know I heard all these, be careful when people shoot, you know they could shoot wrong and I had my kids in the car and I have no idea.  I probably thought maybe he did shoot him.”

She described the officer chasing him as Caucasian, which would make him Sargent Dale Johnson.

The witness said that she did not call the police after the incident.  “I have always trusted cops and I have always trust their job that they do and why they do and I always that when they do something there’s a reason for it.”  She continued, “So when I saw that, once I saw the badge, I felt pretty confident that the officer knew what he was doing and when I heard that he had been shot and I thought that it was probably something that needed to be done for whatever reason had been that had happened when I had not seen.”

Commentary

What can we take from these accounts?  The first thing is that we still have not heard from anyone who actually saw the shooting.  It would seem like a previous witness, Vienna Navarro would have been behind them on road.  This is a reasonable conclusion because Ms. Navarro was nearer to the shooting itself when it occurred.  However, Mr. Roman believes that the witness that has yet to come forward actually saw the actual shooting and saw Mr. Gutierrez running from the Sheriff’s Deputies as they shot at him.

Second, we have heard from several witnesses now, none of them have seen a knife.  This particular witness saw the gun, the badge, but no knife.

Third, this witness saw a badge and knew he was an officer.  But both of these witnesses described the officers in plain clothes and having not seen the badge, had no way of knowing that these were police officers.  So the question is whether Mr. Gutierrez saw a badge or knew from their communications, through his broken English, what the Sheriff’s Department, SO, or “Task Force” meant.  Given that he was described in full sprint by both witnesses here, it is possible that he did not understand who was pursuing him.

Fourth, it is unfortunate that the witnesses were not there so that we could find out about hearing the shot fired, one said that she had heard it, the other said no.  Neither appeared to really know what happened at the end, they were scared and they were trying to leave the scene.

Finally the Vanguard spoke to someone who described a run in with these three deputies on the other side of the bridge just eight minutes before.  They spotted him, made him take off his shirt and show them his tattoos but then let him go.

The final question is how much is law enforcement pursuing an investigation at this point.  Justice Reynoso said none of the witnesses have spoken to the FBI.  Is the DA’s office now following up on additional leads?  No one has really heard anything.

—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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20 thoughts on “One Witness Deported and Another Fled to Mexico After Gutierrez Shooting”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    The problem with this “testimony” is that it is not being given under oath, is not subject to cross examination – the very basic protections to ensure validity we ordinarily demand.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I agree with you entirely. The way I view this process is that they are attempting to see what they can find, make recommendations, and then send the report to an agency to do a formal investigation. One of the things I should have mentioned is that while these particular witnesses would not come forward in this venue, they would come forward in a state or federal investigation to testify.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    DMG: “I agree with you entirely. The way I view this process is that they are attempting to see what they can find, make recommendations, and then send the report to an agency to do a formal investigation. One of the things I should have mentioned is that while these particular witnesses would not come forward in this venue, they would come forward in a state or federal investigation to testify.”

    Have the witnesses actually indicated they will come forward in a state/federal investigation? It will be interesting to see what comes of all this – like you, I would really like to see this case investigated… too many troubling questions…

  4. merixcoatl20

    I wonder exactly what the D.A is investigating? At first glance it would seem like an “investigation” is being used as a way to keep the commission from obtaining the public records.

  5. Double Bogey

    Did the sisters speak at the meeting or were their statements simply read by the families private investigator? Seems pretty odd that the one sister stated she did not hear the shooting or even know that a shooting occured and then the other sister stated that she not only heard it but that she commented on the fact that a shooting had just happened. Just curious…what was the public turnout for this meeting?

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Double Bogey: I too found that confusing and unfortunately the sisters were not at the meeting as I explained, they said they were too frightened to be publicly identified.

    The turnout was decent, I would say around 100 people, not as much as the last meeting, but not bad either.

  7. Superfluous Man

    David-

    What percentage of those in attendance do you think were media?

    Why do the sisters have so much trepidation? Are they afraid law enforcement will harm them or punish them in some manner if they come forward? The one sister actually fled to Mexico, because of the Gutierrez killing?

    Do we know if the sisters read the DA Report, articles written about this incident or watched any of the television news stories regarding Gutierrezs’ killing?

    What the heck is the FBI doing? They haven’t contacted a single witness? What are they investigating? Are we to assume this will be an “investigation” similar in scope to the AG’s?

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Very small, maybe three or four total people with the media.

    I think the whole incident was terrifying to them and they don’t trust the police and didn’t want to get involved. It’s unclear if she left just because of the Gutierrez killing but she implied that was at least part of it.

    I don’t think they read the DA Report, both indicate they saw something in the newspaper but it didn’t seem like they saw a lot.

    It doesn’t seem like the FBI is doing anything. I understood that the FBI would be conducting their own investigation not just a review like the AG, so I don’t know what they are doing exactly.

  9. Double Bogey

    Does it not strike anyone else as strange that the first witness…Vienna Navarro, who was so very detailed in her statements at the last meeting with this group never mentioned that there was another vehicle on the road? Also, how could have Ms. Navarro “sped off” after hearing the gunshots if there was another car in front of her?

  10. David M. Greenwald

    It would appear that there were several other vehicles on the road.

    Do I find it odd, no because she wasn’t asked that.

    How could she have sped of? I suspect because the car in front of her was far enough away for her to do so.

  11. Superfluous Man

    Maybe because Ms Navarro sped off down Kate Lane(at or right after the bottom of the overpass), the street before Matmor. Did the sisters continue on down East Gum or did they turn on Kate Lane as well?

    One of the sisters mentions watching some of this in her mirror, did she recall seeing a vehicle behind her or was she even asked by the person taking her statement?

  12. Double Bogey

    I just find it a little odd that these sisters were, from their “statements”, at approximately the same place at the same time and Ms. Navarro never mentioned the other vehicle in her many statements she has made since the incident.

    Also, David…how do you know that Ms. Navarro was never asked about any other vehicles? seems like that would be a pretty standard question for the police and the families investigator, Mr. Roman, to ask.

    I guess the only troubling most people on this site is how all these “witnesses” could not have seen Navarro pull out a knife from their rear view windows, while driving.

  13. Superfluous Man

    Here’s what I don’t get, the sister(s) say they saw Gutierrez run from north to south, but it’s not clear if they ran in front, toward or behind their vehicle. That would be good to know, I wonder if that was asked of the sisters because it’s not clear from this article what exactly happened. I don’t see how Gutierrez and the officers could run directly in front of the sisters’ vehicle and Ms. Navarro’s vehicle. Was any of this clarified by the commission or Roman?

    Why aren’t they asking these questions, such as “Ms. Navarro, did you see any other vehicles on the road” or “sisters did you see a vehicle behind you”?

    David-It is my understanding that the hearings have been recorded and that a stenographer was present at each meeting. Do you know if any of this will be available to the public or do we have to wait until the hearings are all wrapped up?

  14. David M. Greenwald

    It was asked and the answer was they ended up going behind the car not in front.

    >Why aren’t they asking these questions, such as “Ms. Navarro, did you see any other vehicles on the road” or “sisters did you see a vehicle behind you”? < My guess is no one thought about that question. As to the recordings of the hearings, I had made a deal with the video recorder to get the recordings, but he’s very slow to follow up on even the first meeting. I don’t know what they plan to do with the transcript.

  15. Superfluous Man

    David-

    Then the pursuit would have began northwest of their(sisters) location and as they continued to drive, moved toward(south or southwest) and ultimately behind their vehicle, at which point the pursuit entered the street, causing Ms. Navarro to slow down or stop. From here(once passed the front of her vehicle), the pursuit or Gutierrez was running nearly parallel to her vehicle as he ran by her window(3 feet away) and then at some point after Gutierrez reached the rear of her vehicle he changed course running south or southeast?

    Doesn’t that sound about right? It would be interesting if we could compare and contrast the exact statements made by Navarro and the sisters.

    Was it asked of the sisters if they witnessed anything prior to the pursuit, such as the officer exiting the vehicle and contacting Gutierrez, the angle of the unmarked police vehicle, positioning of the officer(s) prior to the pursuit(in relation to Gutierrez) or Guiterrezs’ hands during the before or during pursuit?

  16. David M. Greenwald

    The first thing the sisters witnessed was seeing a guy in a white T-shirt and then a man dressed in black following him. He was walking at first and then ran.

  17. Superfluous Man

    Would that indicate that Gutierrez didn’t immediately run after he was contacted by Johnson, as the report suggests? Was his back to the man in black or was he walking sideways or backward, facing the man in black?

    Did they comment or were the questioned about the distance between the two, at this point? Did they see the officer make any motions before Gutierrez ran or say anything? Were they driving with their windows down?

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