FRESNO, Calif. – Fresno Chief Jerry Dyer responded to accusations made by the attorney of a man shot and killed by an officer in 2016.
The attorney for the family of the decedent released for the first time last week body camera footage of the deadly shooting. Moreover, he is claiming the man was killed “in cold blood,” The Fresno Bee reported, although circumstances proved different.
Attorney Humberto Guizar and the families of Raymond Angel Gonzalez and Freddy Centeno blamed the deaths of both men on Officer Zebulon Price. The officer was involved in multiple shootings within six months. The families expressed displeasure and outrage that Price was subsequently promoted to sergeant.
“I hope that you will have to face the consequences for what you’ve done, if not here, you’re going to face it to God,” said Christina Muniz, Gonzalez’s sister, in a message to Price and Fresno Police Department. “You will face judgment day … I pray to God that justice will prevail.”
Nevertheless, Chief Dyer said Guizar only released the new video of Gonzalez’s death to gain the public’s sympathy because he didn’t like the outcomes of cases filed in court. Dyer previously released the video of Centeno’s death.
Guizar represents both families in lawsuits against the Fresno Police Department. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal threw out the Centeno case, and Guizar hopes to continue fighting for Centeno in state court. Guizar filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit on last Tuesday in the Gonzalez case.
“Whenever an attorney like Humberto Guizar cannot get the results he wants to get through the court system, he’s going to turn to the public to get sympathy,” Dyer said. “I don’t believe – in fact, I know – that this community is smarter than that. They’re not going to believe him, just like the federal judge in the court system hasn’t believed him.”
The newly released video shows the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of Gonzalez in March 2016.
The video shows Price running after Gonzalez, who at one point discards a backpack. As Gonzalez runs down an alley, he tosses a gun onto a roof, but the gun lands on the ground. At that point, Price fires one round at Gonzalez and misses him.
Gonzalez tumbles to the ground, rolling over and sitting back up as Price shouts demands at him.
At one point Gonzalez puts his hands up while laying down, but he also moves his arms and brushes the gun. He continues to shift positions on the ground, briefly rolling onto the gun, while Price shouts demands.
Price fires the second round after Gonzalez reaches toward his waistband. The second round hits Gonzalez in the chest, fatally wounding him.
Guizar, the lawyer representing Gonzalez’s family, argues that when Gonzalez is shot, he doesn’t have a weapon in his hand. As a result, his claim is that the man no longer presented a danger, saying he shot Gonzalez “in cold blood.”
Dyer said when Gonzalez reached toward his waistband, Price didn’t know what he was reaching for and feared for his life.
Chief Dyer Defends Officer
Dyer defended Price, saying both shootings were justified. He said Price received high marks on a civil service exam in which outside graders assess candidates before promotion. Consequently, he was promoted to sergeant in June 2017.
Dyer said he sympathized with Centeno’s and Gonzalez’s families. However, the chief said, officers have families, too.
“Our officers want to go home and see their loved ones, too,” he said.
Dyer presents solid backup for his conclusions. He said in the Gonzalez case, the department’s internal affairs investigation, the district attorney and now a federal judge all found Price’s actions were justified.
Furthermore, when the shooting occurred, Gonzalez was high on methamphetamine at four times the toxic level, Dyer said. That could’ve affected his ability to comply with Price’s demands, he said. Gonzalez also was on parole and wanted in connection to another shooting.
Guizar questioned the commands Price shouted at Gonzalez, saying they were confusing. He also questioned why a federal judge would dismiss the case, saying the body camera footage showed Price’s life wasn’t in danger.
“We’re not going to sit back and let that go,” Guizar said.