A 17-year-old El Monte teenager pleaded not guilty Friday to allegations he threatened a California Highway Patrol officer via Instagram for the fatal July 3 shooting of 19-year-old Pedro Erick Villanueva in Fullerton, the boy’s lawyer reportedly said.
The teen, who was not identified because of his age, was arraigned at East Lake Juvenile Court on charges of making criminal threats and resisting arrest, both felonies, his attorney John Blanchard told the Orange County Register.
I have not seen the contents of a search warrant that was served in the case, but the defense attorney showed them to the Register's Scott Schwebke, who reports the teen defendant posted a picture of a CHP investigator who was apparently involved in the shooting, described the officer as a “pig” and asked others to find the officer’s patrol vehicle number or home address. Another post indicated Blanchard's client wanted to “dump” officers (street slang for shooting or killing), states the CHP in the warrant.
Blanchard argues his client issued no actual threat, was not advocating violence against the officer and was merely frustrated over heavy-handed police tactics, Schwebke reports.
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That's not how CHP Sgt. Jose Nunez sees it, reportedly emailing the reporter this on Friday: “The threat involved social posts advocating violent acts, shooting officers. The threat singled out a specific CHP officer."
According to the Fullerton Police Department account, undercover CHP officers were conducting an operation in Los Angeles County against car clubs just before 11 p.m. July 3 when they followed a red pickup truck to a cul-de-sac near Fullerton Municipal Airport.
The truck at some point made a U-turn and headed directly at the officers, who opened fire. Villanueva, the truck’s driver from Canoga Park, died at the scene. His passenger, an unidentified 18-year-old man from Santa Fe Springs, was hit in the arm with gunfire, treated at a local hospital and released.
Villanueva probably did not know he was being followed by CHP officers because they were wearing street clothes and driving an unmarked vehicle, Fullerton Police Sgt. Kathryn Hamel later disclosed.