Impartiality of Yolo County DA’s Office Investigation into Gutierrez Shooting

reisig-2009By Alex Clark –

What constitutes an independent investigation appears to be a major point of contention among members of the community.  In this context, an independent investigation appears to refer to the department or agency investigating the conduct of another with whom they are not officially responsible for or in charge of.  What’s more, an independent investigation can rely on the information previously produced by law enforcement agencies when determining what action to take.

With that said, questions regarding the impartiality of the DA’s investigation into the Gutierrez shooting have been discussed in the past.  The DA’s direct involvement with the Yolo County Gang Task Force has some wondering whether or not they should have handled any part of the investigation into the conduct of the sergeant and deputies much less conducted their own independent investigation.

As previously reported, both the AG and DOJ investigations involved the review of available information.  It’s not known if they relied on the report, analysis or findings of the DA when drawing their investigative conclusions, but it’s likely that they considered the work of the DA’s Office when reviewing the incident.

It could be that the DA’s investigative involvement in the Gutierrez shooting is without any conflict and impropriety.  Nevertheless, public perception being that such factors do exist has likely contributed to the public’s reception to the DA’s report, as well as the AG and DOJ’s conclusions.

In December 2009, The Sacramento Bee ran the article “Yolo DA defends his anti-gang campaign.”  The article ran following the release of the DA’s report which concluded that the Yolo County Sheriff Department sergeant and two deputies acted lawfully the day Luis Gutierrez-Navarro was shot and killed when two of them opened fire on Gutierrez after he assaulted them with a knife.

“It [DA involvement in Gutierrez shooting] was clearly something we thought about and looked at,” Reisig told the Bee.  He continued, “One of the first questions I asked myself was, is this appropriate for the District Attorney’s Office to handle? I personally felt there was no conflict. We did not control the unit. The sheriff ran the unit.”

Despite DA Reisig’s due diligence and personal feeling, the public had at the time and continues to have concerns with the seemingly close ties between DA’s Office and the Yolo County Gang Task Force.  In the previous quote, the DA appears to see no conflict in his office’s involvement due in part to the Gang Task Force falling under the control of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department when the shooting took place.

However, DA Reisig created the Yolo County Gang Task Force in 2007 according to their 2008-2009 “Biennial Report.”  Perhaps it’s just out of date information, but the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department website states that they have, “dedicated the use of personnel to the District Attorney’s Gang Task Force…”


In a March 11th 2009 Cal Aggie article, “County sheriff takes over gang task force,” following a highlight of the newly implemented Sheriff-controlled Gang Task Force’s mission, the article states, “In just over a month, there have already been 30 arrests.”

As the article was written, the Yolo County Gang Task Force was under the control of the DA’s Office up to or around the end of January 2009.  Sources put the transfer of the Gang Task Force from the DA’s control to the Sheriff’s in the early months of 2009.  Members of the Yolo County Gang Task Force were involved in the shooting of Luis Gutierrez on April 30th, 2009.

If the estimations are accurate, this would put the Yolo County Gang Task Force under the control of the Yolo County DA’s Office approximately three to four months prior to shooting of Luis Gutierrez by a Sheriff-controlled Yolo County Gang Task Force sergeant and deputy.  The amount of time that had passed between the shift in task force leadership and the Gutierrez shooting was a communicated concern of some community members.

Through sources and investigation, we are confident in reporting that the Yolo County Gang Task Force was physically located at the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office at the time of the Gutierrez shooting and during DA’s investigation into the incident, but is not anymore.  Questions have arisen as to whether or not the sergeant and two deputies were separated from the DA investigators and prosecutors assigned to the Gutierrez investigation.  More importantly, is it relevant to the quality and impartiality of the DA’s investigation?

In the March 2009 Aggie article, it’s reported that “The task force will be made up of seven individuals. The sheriff department will have a sergeant and two detectives, the district attorney’s office will have two investigators, a prosecutor and a crime analyst, CHP will have an investigator and Yolo County Probation Department will have a probation officer.”

The Aggie’s reporting lists four individuals from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office as involved with the Gang Task Force, following the shift from DA to Sheriff control, less than two months before the Gutierrez shooting.

The following is listed on the Yolo County website under the District Attorney’s “Departments:”

“The Yolo County Gang Task Force is an alliance of peace officers, probation officers, parole agents and prosecutors whose common objective is to provide targeted intelligence gathering, enforcement, investigation and vertical prosecution in the area of criminal street gangs.”

The Gang Task Force is a multi-agency law enforcement unit.  Their interaction with various jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies is inherently important to its mission.  The DA’s Office also has prosecutors who vertically prosecute criminal street gang crimes. Prosecutors in these positions work directly with law enforcement gang units as they often work on cases together during the investigative, arrest and prosecution phases.

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven was one of two attorneys listed on the front page of the DA’s report.  Upon reviewing the Yolo County District Attorney’s 2008-2009 “Biennial Report” there is an “Organizational Chart” which lists the “Gang Task Force” as one of the administrative oversights of Asst. Chief DDA Raven.  The “Gang Task Force” can be found under “Grants/Special” and “Program Prosecution.”

This leaves one with several questions.  First, did Asst. Chief DDA Raven have any official responsibility of or involvement with the Gang Task Force leading up to the Gutierrez shooting or during the DA’s investigation into it?  Second, if he did, what were his responsibilities and in what ways was he involved?  Lastly, if Raven was in some way officially involved with the Gang Task Force, in what way could his participation in the DA’s investigation have influenced the impartiality of the DA’s investigation, analysis and decision to not prosecute?

Listed under the DA’s 2008-2009 mission on the “Biennial Report” is “Expand the countywide Gang Task Force.” The report also states that the “District Attorney is a member of the Yolo County Gang Task Force whose mission is to aggressively monitor, contact and arrest gang criminals.” 

The “Biennial Report” also states “The District Attorney has a dedicated team of experienced prosecutors who pursue and prosecute gang members.”  It continues, “Finally, the District Attorney has also committed resources to pursuing gang injunctions (court orders against gang members) in neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by gang crimes and violence.”

The DA’s vested interest in its gang injunction has some wondering if they could truly investigate the Gang Task Force sergeant and deputy’s conduct impartially. This is due to the fact that the DA’s Office has personnel assigned to the Gang Task Force, including a prosecutor, and is to some extent reliant on the Gang Task Force as they build cases that the “gang grant” deputy district attorney prosecutes.  The DA’s Office receives grant monies to prosecute “criminal street gang activity,” which is contingent upon their conviction rates for certain gang offenses.

It’s believed by segments of the community that the DA’s Office is overly dependent on grants to supplement its budget, which affects their decision to charge, plea and litigate cases.  Therefore, if the conduct of the sergeant and deputy were to be found unlawful and that would be harmful to the DA’s ongoing “gang grant” cases, could the DA’s investigation into the Gutierrez shooting be considered objective?

Reisig had described his independent investigation as “parallel” back in December, 2009.  There’s at least one aspect of their investigation that was conducted jointly with the WPD.  The sergeant and two deputies involved in the shooting each gave statements at the Woodland Police Department.   Present at these interviews were Lt. Greg Maursin and Lt. Jim Lucero of the Yolo County DA’s Office, neither of whom are employed by the DA’s Office any longer, as well as WPD Sgt. Dan Letamendi.  Also present were representatives for the sergeant and two deputies.  DA Lt. Jim Lucero was not listed as a participant in the statement of Deputy Oviedo.

The involvement of DA Lt. Lucero has led to some questions about the statements given and his participation in the investigation as he’s also mentioned elsewhere in the report regarding “gang graffiti” in the area where the shooting occurred.  Reliable information has been communicated to us that Lt. Lucero was at one point directly involved with the Yolo County Gang Task Force and possibly held a leadership position while it was under the DA’s control.  This may explain Lt. Lucero’s absence in Deputy Oviedo’s interview.

The question here is whether or not DA Lt. Lucero had worked directly with either the sergeant or two deputies at any point and whether or not his involvement in the interviews would influence the outcome of them and the DA’s investigation. 

It’s also questioned whether or not Sergeant Johnson, Deputy Bautista or Deputy Oviedo were members of the Yolo County Gang Task Force when it was under the official control of the DA’s Office and the consequences of this on the DA’s investigation into the Gutierrez shooting.

DA Reisig told the Bee that he had contacted the Attorney General’s Office prior to getting involved in the Gutierrez shooting and received their approval.  However, he does not elaborate as to what that entailed and the Vanguard does not know either.  We would like to know who the DA’s Office spoke with and what information was either requested by or given to the AG with regard to the DA’s connections to the Gang Task Force.

When examining an independent investigation, one must consider the investigative agency’s connections and interests associated with the focus of their investigation.  In this case, we’ve documented several instances in which the DA’s former and present involvement with the Gang Task Force has created doubt as to whether their investigation was impartial. 

Because the investigations of the AG and DOJ relied on the information available to them, which could include the DA’s investigative findings, analysis and conclusions, some find their conclusions suspect. 

As our examination is centered on why members of the community have continued doubt in the conclusive investigations of the WPD, DA, AG and DOJ, we think the information discussed in this installment has likely contributed to the persistent skepticism.

About his decision to investigate the Gutierrez shooting Reisig told the Bee, “we had a job to do and we did it, as openly and transparently as possible. We invited everyone in the system to come look at it.”

To some, Reisig has not been as open and transparent about his investigation, as they would have liked.

Editor’s note: This is the second of three part review into the Gutierrez Shooting.  The first installment was on Monday.

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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