California

Video shows Fresno police fatally shoot fleeing teen. Was the shooting unjustified?

A newly surfaced video appears to show the moment a Fresno police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old boy back in 2017.

The video — released by Fresno attorney Stuart Chandler, who represents the teen’s father — is expected to be used in an upcoming civil trial against the Fresno Police Department.

The suit alleges that the officer used excessive and unlawful deadly force, and committed assault and battery with negligence.

Isiah Murrietta-Golding was unarmed the day he was shot and killed, April 14, 2017, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Sgt. Ray Villalvazo, a former homicide detective, is named in the lawsuit as the officer who shot the teen.

The upcoming trial is scheduled for October 2020. “We have filed this lawsuit because it’s clear to us that the shooting was unjustified,” Chandler said.

Moments before the shooting, police had pulled over a car with Murrietta-Golding inside at a shopping center at Shaw and Fresno avenues.

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An officer commanded Murrietta-Golding to step out of the vehicle, put his hands behind his head and take a few steps back toward the officer.

That’s when Murrietta-Golding took off running through the busy parking lot, according to the suit.

Eventually, Murrietta-Golding jumped the fence of a daycare center. There, video taken from surveillance camera shows an officer crouch down slightly, then fire at the teen through the fencing.

The video shows Murrietta-Golding, who was shot in the back of the head, immediately drop to the ground.

“Sgt. Villalvazo fired a single shot, which tore through Isiah’s occipital lobe,” the lawsuit says.

Internal review said officer was justified

Former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said back in March 2018 that an internal police investigation determined that “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 prior to the Murrietta-Golding shooting.

Dyer also said then that Murrietta-Golding “reached into his waistband several times,” including when he looked back at Sgt. Villalvazo the moment just before he was shot.

“Fearing he was about to be shot, Sgt. Villalvazo fired one round, striking Murrietta-Golding,” Dyer said.

Chandler disagrees with the former chief.

“There absolutely is no way the officer’s life was in danger,” Chandler said. “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.”

New Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

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