Chief Jerry Dyer defends shooting policies

December 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer acknowledged he has never disciplined an officer for shooting a suspected criminal.

The chief took the stand in the third day of a civil rights trial filed by the family of Steven Vargas. He was shot to death two years ago.

Fresno Police Sergeant Mike Palomino shot Vargas eight times. Palomino and Dyer along with the city of Fresno are named in the wrongful death lawsuit.

The recording was introduced as evidence in the trial. It was used to cast doubt on Sargent Palomino's claim that he was told Steven Vargas had a gun.

The recording reveals a chaotic scene on October 27th 2009. Steven Vargas was behind the wheel of the red SUV that hit a van parked in the driveway of a home, high on PCP. A neighbor called 9-1-1, and was on the phone when Sargent Palomino arrived on the scene.

Caller: "There's a sergeant here right now, ma'am"

Operator: "Is it a police officer?"

Caller: "Yes, ma'am, it's a sergeant."

Operator: "It's a Sgt. Police Officer. Is he confronting the suspect? sir?"

Sargent Palomino:
"Let me see your hands."
"Let me see your hands."
"Let me see your hands."

(Gunshots)

Operator: "Shots fired."

Palomino claimed the man on the phone told him Vargas had a gun. An audio expert testified that was not heard on the recording. Palomino testified he shot at Vargas when the man reached down, as if going for a gun, but there was no gun.

Attorney Arturo Gonzalez argues Palomino violated basic police procedure, and faced no training or discipline as a result of the shooting.

On the stand, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer testified he had never disciplined or offered specific training to any officer involved in a shooting in the ten years he's been chief. That's a key issue in the case.

Arturo Gonzalez said, "So far the chief hasn't said anything that changes my view, which is the officer's need more training and they aren't getting it."

In court Gonzalez is using ten Fresno Police shootings of unarmed people as examples of how a lack of training and oversight has led to excessive violence.

On the stand Dyer said all the shootings since he's been chief have been within department policies. On leaving the courthouse with Sgt. Palomino the chief offered no comment on the proceedings.

Chief Jerry Dyer said, "Not until the trials over, then we'll comment, not till the trials over."

Dyer will resume his testimony when the trial continues next Tuesday.

In a related development the attorneys on both sides of this case received a copy of the long awaited report by Fresno's former police auditor. The federal judge ordered an original copy of the report from the former auditor, Eddie Aubrey, after rejecting an edited copy from city manager Mark Scott.

Scott issued a statement promising to release the report to the public on Monday and denied his editing was part of an effort to conceal the facts of the report.

Attorneys will review the report and decide whether it should be used as evidence in this trial.