As 2013 rapidly draws to a close, two more investigative letters have been published by the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA). One looks at an officer-involved shooting in Placentia that fatally wounded 57-year-old Joseph Oregero. The other examines an incident where Santa Ana police were called to the scene of a dispute where 22-year-old Keylon Jovan Brown was found to be non-responsive after being handcuffed. Both reports conclude that officers acted within policy guidelines.
In the case of Oregero, the details of the investigation are largely built around statements given to the OCDA by Brea Police Department sniper William Montalvo and Fullerton Police Department detective Michael Hines who fired their weapons on August 20, 2012.
Orange County Auto Theft Taskforce officers, driving an unmarked car, happened upon a white Ford van in Placentia that day, ran its plates and learned that it was registered to Oregero, who had an arrest warrant out for possession of a controlled substance for sale.
They tailed him to a motorhome where they commanded him to stop. The man failed to comply and armed himself with a shotgun once inside. A command post was set up as additional assets were then deployed to the scene including the North OC SWAT Team, snipers atop the roof of Valencia High School and an armored Bearcat vehicle. A tense hours-long standoff ensued with Oregero brandishing his weapon.
Calls between Oregero and law enforcement proved to be fruitless in terms of bringing the standoff to a peaceful end. At one point, sniper Montalvo observed Oregero through his scope getting into a position he interpreted as readying to shoot. Montalvo fired twice, but the man exited the motorhome with the shotgun still in hand. Detective Hines then fired rounds at Oregero after he says the shotgun was aimed at him. Oregero was pronounced dead at UCI Medical Center later that afternoon.
“A jury analyzing these facts would justly conclude that it was reasonable for Officer Montalvo and Detective Hines to believe their lives were in danger,” writes the 10-page report, “and that they were justified when they shot and killed Oregero.”
Now onto SanTana…
Keylon Brown crashed for the night at the South Graham Lane residence of “Jane and John Doe” on July 3, 2012. A scuffle took place when John Doe heard Brown making loud grunting noises in one of the rooms. Doe broke down the door and found Brown masturbating.
Brown allegedly punched his two hosts, who managed to subdue him. Jane Doe, weighing in at 250 pounds, sat on Brown for 15-20 minutes. John Doe had to make a second 911 call after 6-8 minutes had passed since the first one–got to love those SAPD response times! When officers Johanna Perez and Kozakowski finally arrived, they proceeded to handcuff Brown, but when they flipped him over, he had stopped breathing. Brown died later that evening at a nearby hospital. Perez gave a statement to OCDA investigators. Kozakowski refused to speak with them.
The autopsy determined Brown's cause of death to have resulted from acute methamphetamine, amphetamine and THC intoxication.
“It is our opinion that there is no evidence to support a finding of criminal culpability on the part of any SAPD personnel,” writes the conclusion, “or any individual under the supervision of SAPD.”
Both reports can be read in their entirety online by going to the OCDA's website, clicking on the Media Center tab and selecting “Investigation Letters.”
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz