Vigil Held for Fresno Police Shooting Victim

October 29, 2009 12:13:28 AM PDT
A crowd of more than one hundred gathered at the scene of the shooting to pray and remember Steven Vargas. The 32 year old father of five was shot to death by a Fresno Police Officer, while behind the wheel of his SUV. Family Friend Renee Estrada was angry. "This shouldn't happen to him. I think the cops are going crazy with the guns. They shouldn't have did that. He wasn't out of the car. They shouldn't have did that."

Police and Sheriff's investigators say Vargas drove his car onto the front yard of the home crashing into a parked minivan. Neighbors flagged down a passing police officer, who approached the vehicle, then fired. Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Curtice confirmed that Vargas was not armed.

"All though we did not find a weapon, I say ... witnesses told the officer before he made contact with Mr. Vargas that Mr. Vargas was armed with a gun, so that was the information the officer had in his mind."

Vargas family members are upset that Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer made this statement after the shooting. On Tuesday Dyer said, "He has an extensive criminal history. He has been to prison, and it appears he is on parole at this time, and perhaps there is a warrant for his arrest."

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As it happens, Vargas was not currently on parole and there were no warrants for his arrest. Hispanic rights activist Jose Avitia of the Brown Beret's thought the chief's comments were out of line. Avitia said, "Why go vilify somebody if it's not true. Why go all those things unless you're trying to cover up something or your trying to downplay what you just did."

Steven Vargas was the fifth person shot and killed by Fresno Police this year. The third in the past month.



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