Fresno Man Dies While in Police Custody

April 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ricardo Varela was shot by officers using non-lethal bean bags and tasers in an attempt to subdue him. His confrontation with officers happened just before 4 o'clock Monday morning in the area of Jensen and East Avenue.Sunday family members warned police about Varela before this morning's incident. Evidence markers show where Fresno police shot 41-year old Ricardo Varela three times with non-lethal bean bags. Tasers were used as well.

"He quickly came back to both of his feet and failed to comply with the officers orders," said Jerry Dyer.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer said officers felt threatened by the 5'9" 350lbs. man after pulling him over for a running a stop sign. Dyer said that's when a struggle began between officers and Varela. It lasted five minutes.

"After placing handcuffs on the individual he immediately, as described by officers, went limp," said the Chief.

Emergency crews drove Varela to Community Regional Medical Center where he died.

"He wouldn't do that. He'd rather fall on his knees and give up," said Varela's mother.

Jennie Varela admits her son has a history of drug abuse and even spent time in prison. That's why she called police late Sunday to tell them her son had relapsed and was behind the wheel of a car. "If I could of tied him down I would of tied him down. But I couldn't. But I wanted help like they say, 'Call,'" she said with tears in her eyes.

Varela was scheduled to work the afternoon shift at a pipe irrigation plant. Many of his co-workers were completely surprised that he died Monday morning. They also did not know he had a problem with drugs.

"He was just a good person. I didn't know he was on drugs. I drank with him a couple nights but nothing out of the ordinary," said David Garcia.

Investigators are waiting for a toxicology report to determine what was in Varela's system and whether that contributed to his death.

Five officers involved in this incident are on paid administrative leave.

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