In the wake of an Oxnard man’s shooting death by Santa Barbara police officers amid State Street Fiesta-goers Friday night, the police department is investigating whether the lethal action was within the agency’s policy. The two officers, who have both been placed on administrative leave, have been identified as Kenneth Kushner and Mike Claytor, both six-year veterans of the department. The results of the investigation will be submitted to the District Attorney’s office for a ruling on whether the officers’ actions were justifiable by law, police spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey said. He offered his personal opinion, based on the evidence to which he had been made privy. “From what I’ve seen and what I know, there are a lot of reasons for it being justified,” he said.
Gunshots rang out just before midnight in front of Hamburger Habit near the intersection of State and Ortega streets, sending hundreds of people running in every direction. The scene was described as chaotic, with varying accounts of what happened. When the dust settled, 24-year-old Wilfred Turner was dead.
The two officers were near the scene when they saw a fight on the sidewalk directly in front of the eatery. Two groups of men had been arguing, allegedly about Turner’s dispute with a man in the other group, Terence Ruben, over an alleged affair with Turner’s 20-year-old wife, McCaffrey said. The exchange erupted into a fight on the patio of the Habit when Ruben, who believed Turner had a gun, punched him in the face. As the two officers were breaking up the fight, they saw Turner climbing back over the patio’s barrier and onto the sidewalk, gun in hand. The gun barrel was leveled in the direction of many people. Turner’s weapon, a .45-caliber Springfield Armory XD automatic handgun, was found later to be loaded. Contrary to some witness reports, there was no evidence that Turner had fired any shots, McCaffrey said. The two officers, standing about five feet away, fired 18 rounds at Turner, hitting him eight times in the torso, four times in his hands and arms, and once in his leg, along with three or four grazes. Turner died at the scene. “They witnessed the man pulling out a gun. He had it pointed at people, and they reacted,” McCaffrey said upon being asked if police warned Turner before shooting.
Police closed State Street between Ortega and Cota streets for more than nine hours while investigating the incident. Mark Smith, 22; Randall Johnson, 23; and Ruben, 24-all of whom are sailors stationed at Port Hueneme-were arrested and currently face charges of fighting in public. None could be reached for comment. Turner and all three men who were arrested were black. McCaffrey adamantly dismissed the idea that race had anything to do with the way police reacted to Turner.
Turner’s family members and friends are concerned the shooting was murder. They also said that Turner was shot after he had fallen to the ground. They say witnesses told them Turner didn’t pull out his gun, let alone point it at anyone. So far, eyewitnesses have not corroborated this information, McCaffrey said. He also said there is no video of the incident. A camera at Tonic next door only shows the sidewalk immediately in front of the club.
Turner joined the Navy in 2002 and was discharged in April of this year. He had been a Seabee in a naval mobile construction battalion based in Port Hueneme. The Seabees provide all types of construction support to the Navy, according to Linda Wadley, a spokesperson for Naval Construction Battalion 5. According to friends, Turner’s battalion was deployed to Iraq from April to October 2005 and to Kuwait from August 2006 to February 2007. Wadley could confirm only that Turner had been in Kuwait.
According to a source stationed at Port Hueneme who declined to be identified, Ruben was allegedly having an affair with Turner’s wife, who is also stationed at Port Hueneme.The anonymous Port Hueneme source said Turner was set to start a security guard job in Moorpark just three days after he died. The source attempted to explain the possible reasons behind Turner carrying a gun. “In the military a gun becomes second nature to you,” the person wrote in an email, having called the police “killers” in a previous correspondence. “Look at his last two deployments. They were in the Middle East, so a gun to him wasn’t a big deal.”