Trial underway in Fresno Police shooting death

FRESNO, Calif.

The civil rights trial was launched over the shooting of /*Steven Vargas*/. He was killed two years ago by /*Fresno Police Sergeant Mike Palomino*/.

The lawsuit not only alleges that a police officer deprived one man of his civil rights, by killing him, but that the police chiefs lack of supervision and the city's apparent cover up, contribute to a culture of killing.

Fresno Police Sgt. Mike Palomino was the first witness called. He acknowledged shooting and killing Steven Vargas on October 27, 2009.

Vargas, who was under the influence of PCP had lost control of his SUV and drove onto the lawn of a house hitting a parked car.

A startled neighbor called 9-1-1. Sgt. Palomino arrived on the scene and less than a minute later, Vargas was dead. Shot while sitting behind the wheel.

Palomino claimed Vargas was acting crazy, waving his hands around, then reached down as if going for a weapon.

A recording of the 9-1-1 call and shooting was played in court. You hear Sgt. Palomino shout four times form Vargas to show his hands. Then you hear a burst of five gunshots, and five more, one at a time. Vargas was hit eight times. Palomino said he kept firing and reloaded, to stop a threat.

Attorney /*Arturo Gonzalez*/ used the testimony of the second witness called, Dr. Venu Ghopal of the Coroner's Office to challenge Palomino's account.

"In my view, the bullet entry wounds are nowhere near his story. One of the entry wounds is back here in the back of his right shoulder," said Gonzalez. "Maybe you can explain to me some magic bullet theory but I don't see how somebody can be bending down to their right an officer straight in front of them, and get a bullet wound to the back. I don't get that."

Gonzalez represents the family of Steven Vargas. But he says this case will go beyond the Vargas shooting. Gonzalez says a total of ten police shootings will be presented to the jury. Gonzalez says it will show the city of Fresno does nothing to train, or discipline officers who kill people.

Gonzalez said, "There is a pattern in Fresno that when you have an officer involved shooting the officer gets three days paid leave and that's it, end of story."

It was determined that Vargas did not have a weapon, and that his windows were rolled up while Palomino was ordering him to show his hands.

Gonzalez has also asked the judge to force the city of Fresno to turn over the report compiled by its former police auditor. The city administration has refused to hand over the report. Gonzales is accusing the city of a cover up.

The attorney for Palomino and the city is not commenting on the case. Testimony will continue Thursday and Chief Jerry Dyer is expected to take the stand.

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