Posted by Curt on 15 December, 2005 at 6:48 pm. Be the first to comment!


More then likely your not familiar with this case. This is the case of a agent with the Bureau of Narcotic’s Enforcement in California who was being prosecuted by San Jose for shooting a drug dealer in the back. Sounds bad right? Of course until you learn the dealer was a known gangmember who led them on a vehicle chase and then a foot pursuit after crashing his car. While chasing the gangster he noticed the suspect holding his waistband while running, which is quite common when they have a gun since it’s hard to keep the gun in the waistband with all that bouncing. After jumping a fence the suspect, while still running, turned and pointed a black object at the agent forcing the agent to shoot the suspect.

The accused agent, Mike Walker, 34, with the state’s elite Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, was indicted in July, 2004, after he shot and killed Rodolfo “Rudy” Cardenas, an ex-convict and Hispanic prison gang member, in a parking lot in downtown San Jose. The indictment had been doggedly pursued by the Santa Clara County DA’s office even though Walker had been absolved of wrongdoing by an investigation by the California Attorney General’s office.

The shooting occurred in midday five months earlier when a stakeout team that Walker was part of mistook an uninvolved passing driver, 43-year-old Cardenas, for a wanted parole violator, who was said to be using drugs and possessing guns and to have been accused of murder. When the team attempted to stop Cardenas’ SUV so they could question him, he sped away.

Occupying several undercover cars, the team followed in what was described as a “wild, Smokey and the Bandit” pursuit through crowded San Jose streets. The chase ended when Cardenas’ vehicle skidded to a stop across the mouth of an alley that flanked a retirement center. The suspect fled down the alleyway on foot and Walker ran after him.

Walker later described Cardenas as running “hunched over” while holding his front waistband. Fearing that the suspect might at some point attempt to ambush him, the agent kept his gun drawn.

The lethal confrontation occurred shortly after Cardenas scaled a cyclone fence at the end of the alley and dropped down into the parking lot. According to Walker, the suspect was continuing to run away, now at a slower “jogging” pace, when he abruptly turned his upper body toward the agent.

Walker said he caught just a glimpse of a dark object in Cardenas’ hand, pointed in his direction. Walker took it to be a semiautomatic pistol and in perceived defense of his own life, he said, he fired two bursts from his service handgun.

One of his rounds entered the lower right of Cardenas’ back and exited front left. The wounded suspect fought agents who attempted to administer first aid and was pronounced dead later at a nearby hospital. Tests revealed that Cardenas was high on methamphetamine when he was shot.

No gun was found at the scene or on the suspect’s body. But near where he fell, a rectangular digital measuring scale of a type commonly used by drug dealers was recovered. This appears to have been the “threatening” object Walker saw Cardenas pointing.

The suspect’s estranged wife told investigators that on numerous occasions he had told her that if he was ever stopped again by police, “he would run from them and force them to shoot him” rather than go back to prison as a “three-time loser.”

Despite the circumstances, prosecutors refused to accept that Cardenas’ death resulted from a righteous shooting. Evidently believing that Walker had shot because he was angry that Cardenas was getting away, Deputy DA Liroff called the agent’s version of events a “fabrication,” repeatedly labelled him “a cowboy” and a “hot dog,” condemned him for “reckless misconduct,” likened shooting someone in the back to “Old West” tactics, and charged that other agents had “conspired” to protect him.

When the grand jury returned the indictment for voluntary manslaughter, Walker became the first drug enforcement agent in California ever sent to trial on criminal charges for a killing on duty.

Why the DA in San Jose insists on pursuing this case is beyond me but it appears the DA was made a fool of in court recently:

A California narcotics agent who faced up to 11 years in prison has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter for shooting in the back a fleeing suspect who turned out to be unarmed.

A dramatic turning point in the trial came when an expert on the body movements of suspects in deadly force encounters clashed sharply with a prosecutor who claimed the agent lied about how the shooting occurred.

Drug agent Mike Walker (left) and Force Science expert Dr. Bill Lewinski (right)

During a cross-examination, Deputy DA Lane Liroff emphatically asserted that the suspect could not have turned and pointed what appeared to be a gun while simultaneously running away, as the agent said he did, without falling down.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!” retorted expert witness Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

As the jury watched and snickered, Lewinski then sprinted for about 30 feet across the courtroom in the “impossible” posture, without stumbling or falling, thereby puncturing a key component of the prosecution’s case.

[…]Lewinski’s clash with Liroff came during the two and one-half days he testified as an expert witness during the six-week trial. During cross-examination, while Lewinski was defending the validity of an animated version of the shooting created by Parris Ward, one of the nation’s leading animation specialists who is also on the Technical Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center.

As he had done in persuading the grand jury to indict Walker, Liroff challenged what the agent had claimed was the suspect’s body position when he turned and made the threatening gesture that prompted Walker to shoot. He asked Lewinski rhetorically if it wasn’t true that a person “cannot possibly run in that position without falling down.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!” Lewinski responded. “Do you want me to demonstrate running in that position?”

No doubt to his ultimate regret, Liroff said yes.

“How fast do you want it?” Lewinski asked.

“Just do it,” the prosecutor commanded.

Lewinski then left the witness box and ran in front of the jury box, traveling at what he estimates was two to three times faster than Walker said Cardenas was moving. He did not fall down or even come close.

Liroff then protested that Lewinski had “cross-stepped with your feet.”

“Yes, exactly,” Lewinski said. “That’s how you run in this position.” By then some members of the jury were laughing.

What was the end result?

At first, half of the jurors who acquitted state drug agent Mike Walker of manslaughter Tuesday thought the state narcotics agent might be guilty of a crime. But eventually they all agreed he was justified in shooting Rodolfo “Rudy” Cardenas because he felt threatened.

The verdict, which prompted a brief scuffle outside the courthouse between law enforcement officers and protesters, angered Cardenas’ family and local civil rights activists. The state attorney general and other law enforcement officials said the jury had justly supported an officer involved in a split-second decision during a chase in downtown San Jose in February 2004.

“Frankly I just think it was an `honest mistake,’ but at what point does an honest mistake become a felony? That’s what we wrestled with,” said jury foreman Mike Krey, a 51-year-old journalist from Campbell.

Krey said Walker’s insistence that he saw a gun in Cardenas’ hand — even though one was not found — was the biggest factor in convincing jurors he genuinely believed he was threatened.

The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for a little more than two full days before reaching their verdict in the first case involving a California state drug agent charged with killing someone in the line of duty.

Walker’s reaction “came across as very believable and very honest, of a person who thought he was in imminent danger and fired for a reason,” Krey said.

This whole case was quite amazing given the fact that I would not have reacted any different under the same circumstances. If I reasonably believe a suspect is armed and he turn’s towards me with an object that appears to be a gun (given the millisecond I have to view and analyze what I see) I would have fired also. But in San Jose that can get your tried for a crime.

I would have paid money to see that witness making a fool out of the DA tho.

I would have paid money to see that witness making a fool out of the DA tho.

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