Fresno Police Shooting Victim Hit 14 Times

April 3, 2009 12:56:28 AM PDT
Early last Saturday morning 23 year old Steven Willis was shot to death by Fresno Police Officers, in the parking lot of his apartment complex in Southeast Fresno. Attorney Rick Berman is representing the Willis family and is considering filing a lawsuit over the shooting."We know at least two officers fired 35 rounds in a crowded apartment complex and that in and of itself is very unusual and to have a young man with 14 bullet wounds in him is very unusual." Berman said.

At a news conference with Steven Willis' mother and father, Berman said the coroner's office told him four of the bullet wounds were found in the victims back. Just hours after the shooting Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer defended his officers saying Willis had a gun and fired a shot at officers. But, Berman questions the chief's account and Steven Willis' father, Chris, believes the officers executed his son.

"I'm feeling angry and I am in shock. I don't understand this. I know that he didn't do what they said he did." Willis said.

Willis said his son had been target shooting earlier in the day and was retrieving a holstered handgun from the trunk of his car when police confronted him. Berman claims witnesses say police did not issue any verbal warnings before shooting. Berman says the Chief's defense of his officers was premature.

"There needs to be a detailed investigation. The Chief of Police is a politician as well as a city employee, and how much stock do you put in politicians statements that could very well be solely to protect their office, or their officers." Berman said.

Berman also questioned a coroner's report that said Steven Willis had a blood alcohol level of .29 per cent. Three times over the legal limit. Berman said additional, more definitive tests are needed.

Berman also questioned a police claim that an officer may have been grazed by a bullet fired from Willis's gun. He says forensic testing needs to be done before that claim can be verified. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer issued a statement following the Willis family's press conference. He said quote: "It would be inappropriate to comment on the coroner's report in this case. Any comment on this case regarding the coroner's findings should come from the coroner Dr. David Hadden."

Hadden tells action news his office provided Berman with information from the report, but said the official document has not been released.

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