Homeless Man Left in Coma After Encounter with Anaheim Police

Vincent Valenzuela, III and son
Vincent Valenzuela, III and son
Courtesy of the family

UPDATE, 5:10 PM.: At a press conference held at across the street from West Anaheim Medical Center (hospital staff kicked media and family members out) it was revealed that Vincent Valenzuela III's son, Vincent IV, graduated from Anaheim PD's Jr. Cadet program just a week and a half ago. Vincent IV spoke at it. "I really want to see [my dad]," the 9-year-old son said through tears. "I really want him to be with me and play basketball and soccer."

Vincent Valenzuela IV speaks at the press conferenceEXPAND
Vincent Valenzuela IV speaks at the press conference
Photo by Gabriel San Roman/OC Weekly

The Anaheim Police Department issued the following press release regarding their run-in-with Valenzuela.

On July 2, 2016 at 9:15 am, Anaheim Police Department received a call of a suspicious male who had followed a woman to her home in the 2600 block of W. Broadway Ave. Officers responded and contacted Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, a 24 year old resident of Anaheim. Valenzuela engaged the officers in a physical confrontation, and while the officers were attempting to take him into custody, he went into medical distress. Anaheim Police Officers immediately began life-saving measures and called for paramedics. Personnel from Anaheim Fire & Rescue also responded and provided medical attention. Valenzuela was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in critical condition.

As is customary in an incident of this nature, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is the lead investigative agency. The APD Major Incident Review Team (MIRT) and the Office of Independent Review (OIR) will conduct concurrent investigations. The officers involved in the incident were wearing Body Worn Cameras, which were activated at the time. The video files from the Body Worn Cameras have been provided to the District Attorney’s Office.

"It sounds so much like what happened to Kelly," Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, tells the Weekly. The Anaheim police press release had a familiar tone to the initial reports about his son's death in 2011. "It's identical to what [Fullerton police] said." After the press conference wrapped up, Patricia Gonzalez finally got to visit Vincent III at the hospital."I just told him to stay strong, not give up and keep fighting," Gonzalez tells the Weekly. "He's not responsive, it's like he's not here when I look at him, like he's not in this world." 

Meanwhile, in the land of hackery known as the Orange County Register, reporter Erika Ritchie essentially regurgitated the above press release for her "story," down to wrongly noting his age (Vincent III was 32, not 24). Not only that, but Ritchie and her editors couldn't help but to toe the police-lover line, much like they did five years ago with Kelly Thomas: with no evidence whatsoever other than what the Anaheim PD press release stated, Ritchie asserted that Valenzuela "fought officers" and used "physical force to push" officers. Of course, hackery is expected of Ritchie, whom our R. Scott Moxley wrote about in 2012 back when she and her husband wanted some trees cut down in Laguna Beach. Gives new meaning to the term, "dead-tree edition," don't it?

Vincent III in a coma
Vincent III in a coma
Photo courtesy of Valenzuela family

ORIGINAL POST, 3:54 P.M.: Yesterday morning, something happened between Anaheim police and Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, III. that left him in a coma at West Anaheim Medical Center—and his family unable to see him and asking questions.

His despondent relatives have been searching for answers ever since. On Sunday morning, Vincent's sister, Andrea, and his former wife, Patricia Gonzalez, pressed store owners in a strip mall off of Magnolia Avenue and West Broadway with questions, but could only gather a rough outline. The women stopped at Coin Laundry, where Vincent had been seen on surveillance camera walking into the laundromat followed by police around 9:20 a.m on Saturday. They learned that the 32-year-old apparently ran out towards a 7-Eleven across the street that's known to be a popular stop for Anaheim police, and where Vincent and the police had their fateful encounter. 

"I think people know more, but they're afraid to express what really happened," Patrica says. 

The Anaheim police didn't confirm any details with the Weekly, only stating that they were preparing a press release for this afternoon. The 7-Eleven manager, meanwhile, didn't allow the Weekly to review surveillance footage, directing us to a corporate office instead. Whatever happened, it's five years to the July 4 weekend that Fullerton officers beat Kelly Thomas to death, in a case that sparked worldwide outrage and deep soul-searching by Orange County over its homeless population.

West Anaheim 7-Eleven where the encounter took placeEXPAND
West Anaheim 7-Eleven where the encounter took place
Photo by Gabriel San Roman/ OC Weekly

Paramedics transferred Vincent to West Anaheim Medical Center after the incident, but answers have been hard to come by there, too, for the family. They gathered in the waiting room anxiously, unable to visit his bedside. Accompanied by a police officer, a doctor told Patricia and other family members around 10 p.m. last night that Vincent had been under a medically induced coma. "He said that Vincent passed away and after the third time he had been resuscitated at the scene," Patricia says. "When they got him here, they were able to stabilize his heart, but they don't know how long he was out for so they put him in a cold coma." 

The family hadn't been allowed to see Vincent. A memo at the hospital stated that no visitors were allowed because he's in police custody. "My main concern is that he gets out of the coma that he's in," says Fermin Vincent Valenzuela Jr., Vincent's father. The elder Vincent is angry that his son didn't receive hospital care until sometime after noon. He retained the legal services of Jaime Segall-Gutierrez, who successfully pressured for visitation rights starting at 3:30 p.m.. Gutierrez is also calling a press conference outside West Anaheim Medical Center at 4:30 p.m. today. 

Gutierrez has many questions about the incident."Is there video? My understanding is that there is," the attorney says. "We'd like to have a copy." Gutierrez, like the family, had initially been refused visitation rights. "There's no precedent that prohibits me, as his attorney, from visiting him," he says, calling the move illegal. "Even if he's in a coma, I have the right to see him and document his condition."

A balloon at the post reads "Pray 4 Vincent"EXPAND
A balloon at the post reads "Pray 4 Vincent"
Photo by Gabriel San Roman/ OC Weekly

Vincent III is the father of two young children. The family says he suffered from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but hadn't been taking his medication. He was homeless and stayed at Maxwell Park in Anaheim, where police heavily enforce overnight camping and property possession ordinances. Vincent had been released from Theo Lacy two weeks ago for drug paraphernalia possession. Patricia described Vincent as seeming "delirious" last week when she saw him last. 

In better health, the family says Vincent is known to be "friendly," a "joker," and "silly." All they want is to know the truth about what happened. "He would never try to fight back with a cop," Andrea says. "He's a runner. If he can get away, he'll get away." 

"There has to be somebody out there who filmed or saw what happened," Patricia says. "We have hope that the truth will be revealed."  

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