Newly released surveillance footage depicts a California police sergeant fatally shooting an unarmed 16-year-old in the back of the head. Although the police claimed the teen turned back towards officers while reaching towards his waistband, the video clearly shows that the boy was unarmed and never turned toward the officers before his death.
On April 15, 2017, Fresno police officers pulled over a car and ordered a passenger to exit the vehicle with his hands in the air. Initially complying with their orders, Isiah Murrietta-Golding, 16, suddenly fled on foot after an officer ordered him to drop to his knees.
According to the City of Fresno’s Office of Independent Review, the officers “caught up to the suspect as he climbed over the fence of a nearby business. As one officer began climbing over the same fence another officer arrived on scene and once again gave the command for the suspect to stop. The suspect turned and looked back over his right shoulder at the officer and at the same time reached for his waistband area with his left hand. The officer believing the suspect was reaching for weapon fired one round striking the suspect. It was later determined the suspect was not carrying a weapon at the time. Emergency medical aid was immediately provided, however, the suspect did not survive.”
But according to a newly released surveillance video, Murrietta-Golding never looked back at the officers after jumping over the fence. Although the teen did reach down toward his waistline, he was only pulling up his sagging pants while attempting to flee.
In the video, Fresno Police Sgt. Ray Villalvazo stood near the fence and fired a single bullet into the back of the teen’s head. According to a lawsuit filed by Murrietta-Golding’s father, Sgt. Villalvazo “fired a single shot, which tore through Isiah’s occipital lobe.”
“Isiah and his brother were considered possible or probable suspects,” plaintiff’s attorney Stuart Chandler, who represents the boy’s father, told ABC7. “There was not a warrant for their arrest. There was no conduct by Isiah that day to ever show that he had a gun – because, of course, he didn’t.”
In March 2018, former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced that an internal police investigation determined “Sgt. Villalvazo’s actions were within department policy,” and that the shooting was justified because the teen was wanted for the murder of 19-year-old Eugenio Ybarra, who died a day before the fatal police shooting. Dyer stated, “Fearing he was about to be shot, Sgt. Villalvazo fired one round, striking Murrietta-Golding.”
But the newly released video revealed that Villalvazo was never in danger of being shot by the teen. Recorded on police body cam video, one officer can be heard telling another officer immediately after the shooting, “Good shot.”
“There absolutely is no way the officer’s life was in danger,” Chandler asserted. “He was running away and he was trying to hold up his pants.
“And for the chief to make a comment that it was justified to shoot Isiah because he was considered a possible suspect, it’s not the place of the police to make that determination and without a trial.
“You can’t do that in America.”
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the boy’s father alleges that Villalvazo used excessive and unlawful deadly force while committing assault and battery with negligence. The upcoming trial is currently scheduled for October 2020.