The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is helping with an investigation of an officer-involved shooting in Guadalupe, in which a Guadalupe Police officer opened fire during a pursuit of a wanted suspect and struck a civilian sitting in a car, killing him.
According to a statement from Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Raquel Zick, Guadalupe Police officers recognized a suspect known to have an “outstanding no-bail felony arrest warrant” shortly before 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 21. Though details on the incident are sparse, as the investigation is ongoing, authorities say an officer “fired his service weapon at the wanted suspect” but instead struck 59-year-old Juan Luis Olvera-Preciado, an uninvolved resident who was sitting in his car just two blocks away from where the suspect was originally spotted on Obispo Street.
“The sequence of events that transpired after officers contacted the suspect is currently under investigation by the California Department of Justice (DOJ),” said Zick. The identities of both the suspect and officer involved have yet to be released. “The suspect with the felony warrant was ultimately arrested at the scene. Neither the officers nor the suspect were injured.“
Guadalupe Police Chief Michael Cash requested Sheriff’s detectives and forensics technicians to respond to the scene, and detectives found the incident fell under the criteria of the newly chaptered Assembly Bill 1506, a state bill approved a year ago that requires the Attorney General’s Office to “investigate incidents of officer-involved shootings that result in the death of an unarmed civilian.”
The DOJ investigators will lead the criminal aspect of the investigation, with help from the Sheriff’s Office, while the Santa Maria Police Department will conduct an administrative investigation, as requested by Guadalupe Chief Cash. According to the statement, Cash met personally with the Olvera-Preciado family to offer his condolences and to “coordinate support services.”
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Cash’s appointment as head of the police force was met with some scrutiny in 2018, due to a string of incidents in his career — as the head of the Southwestern College campus police, he was placed on a two-month leave after discharging his service Glock, which went flying into a nearby room where three people were, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. An earlier report in the Los Angeles Times said that Cash received a four-day suspension for use of excessive force after allegedly punching a suspect who was already in a chokehold. The cases were handled through internal investigations, and final reports remain confidential.
The new law, AB 1506, although passed last August, was effective starting in July of this year, and this is the first case of an officer-involved shooting in Santa Barbara County that fell into the DOJ jurisdiction. Attorney General Rob Bonta released a “guidance for implementation” on July 7.
“One of the most important tasks ahead for public safety and our society is building and maintaining trust between our communities and law enforcement,” said Bonta. “Impartial, fair investigations and independent reviews of officer-involved shootings are one essential component for achieving that trust. Today, California is strengthening our state’s mechanisms for accountability and transparency in investigations of officer-involved shootings. These cases are never going to be easy, but the California DOJ will follow the facts and seek to ensure every Californian is afforded equal justice under the law.”
Guadalupe Police and city councilmembers did not respond to requests for comment. More information will be released when made available.