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.
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.
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
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.”
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