A Richmond police officer shot and killed a man during a scuffle outside a Cutting Blvd. liquor store early Sunday morning, the city’s first fatal officer-involved shooting since 2007, police said.
The name of the dead man was confirmed by several eyewitnesses Sunday afternoon as Richard Perez III, 24, believed to be a resident of Richmond.
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus has not released the name of the officer. In a statement released at 2 p.m. Sunday, Magnus wrote that the officer is a Latino, Spanish-speaking, six-year veteran of the police department.
According to the statement, which did not identify the victim by name, the officer made contact with Perez at 12:15 a.m. while on foot patrol at Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store at 3322 Cutting Blvd.
The police statement described Perez as “very intoxicated,” and acted “aggressive, belligerent, and uncooperative toward the officer,” but friends of the dead man have questioned whether the shooting was necessary.
When the officer directed Perez to sit on the sidewalk so he could conduct a records check, according to the statement, Perez resisted, then attacked when the officer tried to subdue him.
Perez “became increasingly aggressive,” according to the statement, “and tried to disarm the officer by attempting to pull the gun out of the officer’s holster.”
After an initial struggle, the officer and Perez “fell to the ground as they grappled with each other,” during which time Perez continued to reach for the officer’s gun – which according to the statement was seen “by at least one independent witness.”
The officer fired three shots at Perez, striking him in the chest, according to the statement. Police said the officer made the decision to fire due to physical exhaustion, “fearing the suspect would overpower him and get his gun.”
Perez died at the scene.
Friends of Perez who were at the scene later Sunday morning said they did not witness the shooting, but said the officer’s actions were unnecessary and the police account is inaccurate.
Charlie Mae Rollins said she was outside Uncle Sam’s with her grandchild and Perez just prior to the shooting. Rollins said the police officer ordered her and her grandchild to leave the scene, then placed Perez in handcuffs on the sidewalk.
“All they had to do was put him in the car and take him to jail,” Rollins said. Rollins said Perez was intoxicated and acting belligerent, but she said he was unarmed and did not pose a threat.
In an email Monday morning, Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan provided an account that contradicts Rollins’.
“At no time prior to the shooting was Mr. Perez handcuffed,” Gagan wrote. “At the point where the officer shoots the suspect, the store’s CCTV shows the officer retreating and the suspect, who is obviously not handcuffed, aggressing on him.”
Other media outlets reported that they had reviewed store surveillance footage that appears to show Perez clutching his chest after being shot.
Robin Townsend, who was friends with Perez but not present at the scene of the shooting, also said the shooting was unnecessary.
“They killed him for no reason,” Townsend said.
Perez’ father said he was arrested Aug. 18 for firing a handgun outside his family’s home.
Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store was briefly shut down by police in February for “several violations” and “continues to be a problem location that has a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood,” according to police.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is conducting an independent investigation of the shooting, based on established protocols, Magnus said.
Magnus said there is “limited” security footage of the incident, which investigators have reviewed to determine “the sequence of events that lead to the officer’s use of lethal force.”
The officer is on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation, per department protocol.