The killing of an unarmed man by a Bay Area police officer last week deserves equal attention to other controversial examples of cops using deadly force, the victim's father said Wednesday.
A police officer in Richmond, California, shot Richard "Pedie" Perez multiple times outside a liquor store on Sept. 14, but witnesses and the police department have conflicting accounts of what preceded the shooting.
Police say Officer Wallace Jensen first tried detaining the 24-year-old because he "displayed obvious signs of being very intoxicated." Jensen said he shot Perez for trying to grab his gun. But a lawyer for Perez's parents says witnesses have claimed Perez didn't make threatening moves, though he resisted being arrested.
That narrative may sound similar to other disputes involving lethal police violence, such as the shooting of Michael Brown. But Perez's father wonders why it hasn't registered a fraction of other cases' outrage.
"My son's just as good as anybody else's son," the elder Richard Perez told HuffPost. "He was just as unarmed as everybody's son."
It is the first time a Richmond cop had fatally shot anyone since 2007, according to a statement from Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus.
"As chief of police, I am committed to the greatest degree of transparency possible involving this critical incident," Magnus' statement said. "I am confident that all aspects of this case will be thoroughly investigated and we will keep you appraised of updates as they become available."
It was mandatory for Jensen to carry a Taser and nightstick with him, according to John Burris, an attorney for the Perez family. But on the night of the shooting, Jensen didn't have either, Burris told HuffPost.
"If he had those items, given that the kid was unarmed, they should have been used," Burris said. "By not having them, he reached for deadly force."
A Richmond police spokesman disputed Burris' allegation and told HuffPost that Jensen had a Taser X26.
"He considered using his Taser early in the fight, but could not get to it with his left hand because the suspect was over-powering him," Capt. Mark Gagan said in an email.
The level of a struggle that Perez put up didn't warrant Jensen opting for his gun, Burris said.
"Have no doubt [Perez] was resisting [arrest], but he was not threatening," Burris said. "That's no justification for shooting anyone. Period."
Jensen, who is Latino, has served six years on the force, according to the department. Perez's father said the Perez family identifies as white.
The younger Perez had several prior run-ins with the law. Twice he was arrested for alleged drunk driving, according to his father, and the most recent DUI occurred the night before he was killed. In August, he was charged with firing a gun in a grossly negligent manner for a shooting near the family's recycling lot, Richmond Confidential reports.
The Contra Costa district attorney and the Richmond Police Department are conducting separate investigations of the shooting.
Perez, who lived in the rough Iron Triangle neighborhood, worked with his father in the family-owned paper and recycling business and had a cheerful, outgoing personality, according to his father.
"We worried he would get killed in a drive-by shooting, but it was a cop that did it," his father said.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include information from Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan about Jensen carrying a Taser.