Fresno Must Change Shooting Policy; Retrain Officers and Investigators

Fresno police officer Juan Avila shot Jaime Reyes, Jr. in the back as he fled police. Police recovered an unloaded stolen gun, wrapped in a plastic bag in his pocket. In addition to paying Jaime's parents $2.2 million, the FPD agreed to change its Use of Force and Shooting policies to only allow officers to shoot when they are confronted by an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury. Previously, officers were permitted to kill someone who they thought could pose a potential threat in the future. All patrol staff will be retained about the necessity to ensure that every shot is necessary, to avoid extra needless gunshots. And investigators also will be retrained to consider witness statements that contradict officers' statements, rather than just assuming that whatever the officer says is true. This hard-fought case took four years of work by Haddad & Sherwin to win and to begin to change the way the Fresno Police Department handles deadly force.

Related Headlines
  • Fresno settles police shooting lawsuit for $2.2 million
    Pablo LopezFresno BeeNovember 22, 2016

    The city of Fresno has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the parents of a Fresno man who was fatally shot by police four years ago. With the settlement comes major changes for the Fresno Police Department, said Oakland attorneys Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin, who represented the parents of Jaime Reyes Jr., 28, who was shot while climbing a fence at Aynesworth Elementary School in southeast Fresno in the afternoon of June 6, 2012. Haddad said Tuesday that if the lawsuit had gone to trial, the evidence would have shown that Officer Juan Avila shot Reyes near the top of the fence. Once Reyes toppled to the ground, Avila shot him three more times in the back as he lay wounded, face down on the ground, Haddad said. In the settlement, the city does not admit to any wrongdoing by its officers. The suit was filed seeking unspecified damages. ... City officials agreed to the settlement on Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court in Fresno. As part of the settlement, Haddad said the Fresno Police Department has agreed to change its use-of-force policy. Before, officers could shoot a suspect if he posed an imminent threat. “Fresno police have a unique interpretation of what ‘imminent threat’ means,” Haddad said. To police, it means a pending threat or a threat in the near future, Haddad said. The settlement mandates that Fresno police are only allowed to shoot a suspect if the suspect poses an “immediate threat,” or a threat at this very moment, Haddad said. Sergeants and patrol officers also will be trained to “assess every shot,” Haddad said. This way, an officer doesn’t fire extra bullets when the situation doesn’t warrant it, Haddad said, noting that Reyes was incapacitated with the first shot, therefore he didn’t need to be shot three more times in the back. In addition, the settlement requires additional training for homicide detectives and the police Internal Affairs officers. The training will require them to consider statements by witnesses that contradict statements by officers at the scene. In the Reyes shooting, a female witness said she “saw an execution,” Haddad said. But homicide detectives and Internal Affairs officers disregarded her statement, Haddad said. “We’re hopeful that these policy changes could prevent some future shootings by police,” he said.