previous page next page
Deputy involved in June 2 shooting involved in two other shootings
By JEREMY HAY
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a man last month in Santa Rosa has been involved in three of the 11 officer-involved shootings that the sheriff’s office has recorded this decade.
Sgt. Mark Fuston, who on June 1 killed Albert Mike Leday Jr., 49, after a high speed chase, was one of two deputies who fatally shot a Windsor woman in 2000 after she pointed a toy gun at them. In 2003, he shot and injured a fleeing gang member.
A Santa Rosa Police Department investigation continues into the Leday shooting. Fuston was cleared of wrongdoing in the prior two shooting incidents.
Civil rights activists on Monday said they were withholding judgement but said that the prior shootings were notable.
“It doesn’t bode well,” sad Carole Howard, a member of the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline, a group that works with people who feel mistreated by police. “It’s just one more thing to pay attention to, it’s an alert, put it that way.”
Steve Fabian, a boardmember of the county chapter of the ACLU, said, “It’s hard to second guess a police officer in this type of situation without knowing all the things that took place, both in the current situation and the prior situations.”
He added, however, “I think that at the same time, three shootings — most officers go through their career with no shootings — it just raises a lot of concerns.”
Sheriff’s officials last week said that deputies involved in multiple shootings aren’t subject to additional supervision, but that the department reviews each incident to see whether procedures were followed.
On Monday, Sheriff’s Capt. Matt McCaffrey said that those reviews do take into account prior incidents where there was use of force.
“You look at what were your findings in the previous shootings, if he followed policy, he followed law, he followed good judgment. If your findings were positive, there’s nothing really to go back and look at,” he said.
“Our point of view is to look at it internally to see if they followed procedure, and the second issue is to look at it from a training standpoint,” McCaffrey said. “That’s our job as an agency.”
Fuston is not the only deputy to have been involved in multiple shootings. In 2004, Deputy Henri Boustany was involved in two fatal shootings; he was cleared of wrongdoing in both cases.
Of the 11 officer-involved shootings recorded by the sheriff’s office since 2000, eight were fatal.
The first of those was in April 2000, and involved Fuston and another deputy, Tom Howard. In that case, the two were responding to a 911 call from Erin McDonald, 31, who said she was being held hostage by a woman with a gun.
In the house, McDonald pointed a cap gun that had been painted black at each of them separately, prompting them to fire.
Both were cleared of wrongdoing, and the District Attorney’s Office later concluded that McDonald “orchestrated” a “suicide-by-cop plan.”
In the 2003 shooting, Fuston shot Andrew Valencia, 21, five times in the back, buttocks and legs after pulling him over. In that case, Santa Rosa and Petaluma police investigators said, Valencia turned as Fuston was chasing him, appeared to be drawing a weapon and shouted, “I have a gun, too.”
No weapon was found on Valencia, who survived, but a loaded 9 mm handgun was found in his car. Valencia was later sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for a gang-related shooting.
The shooting of Leday came after a pursuit that began at a Larkfield apartment complex to which deputies had been called by a woman who said she was fearful of her ex-boyfriend who was on the premises, and that he had earlier assaulted her.
When deputies spotted Leday in his car, he led them on a chase to Guerneville Road and West Steele Lane, where he crashed into a light pole and got out of his car.
He was shot seconds later, police and some witnesses said, after he appeared to reach behind his back and pull up his waistband.
No weapon was found on Leday or at the scene.
The case remains under investigation by Santa Rosa Police investigators who will turn over their findings to the District Attorneys Office to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.
ACLU seeks name of deputy who fatally shot suspect June 1
By RANDI ROSSMAN
The refusal by Sonoma County sheriff’s officials to release the name of a deputy who shot and killed a man following a high-speed chase two weeks ago is being challenged by the ACLU.
The Sonoma County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has formally requested Sheriff Bill Cogbill release the name of the deputy, as well as other deputies present at the shooting.
Albert Mike Leday, Jr., 49, died June 1, after being shot while in front of Coddingtown Mall at Guerneville Road and West Steele Lane after leading deputies on a high-speed chase and crashing into a pole.
Sheriff’s officials said the deputy who shot him has not been identified because his safety could be in jeopardy. They have also refused to say if the deputy has been involved in any other shootings and how long he has been on the force.
Cogbill Tuesday held to that position, saying the department has information indicating a possible threat to the officer.
Leday was an ex-felon on parole for a burglary conviction with a record that included assault with a deadly weapon and two restraining orders.
Cogbill Tuesday said he had some ties to gangs, but a gang connection alone did not warrant withholding the deputy’s name, he said.
Three days after the shooting, Santa Rosa police officials leading the investigation said gang activity was not part of their concern for the deputy’s safety.
Cogbill said they’ve uncovered more information since that time.
“I believe it’s a viable threat and something we need to be concerned about,” Cogbill said.
Leday’s family Tuesday refuted reports that Leday had gang ties, his son said.
He was an educated, well-spoken man who had zero ties to gangs,” said his son, Justin Leday, 25, of Santa Rosa.
The wait to find out more about why a deputy used lethal force against Leday, who was apparently unarmed, has taken a toll on his family, said Perla Rodriguez, 49, of Las Vegas, Justin Leday’s mother and Leday’s high-school sweetheart.
“I want answers, I need answers,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t rest, and believe me my son can’t rest.”
Steve Fabian, member of the local ACLU board, wrote to the sheriff on behalf of the agency, citing the public records act and asking for the information within 10 days.
Cogbill said he met with a county attorney Tuesday afternoon in light of the ACLU’s letter and confirmed that the Public Information Act allows a law enforcement agency to withhold a name when that person’s safety is in question.
“The law is pretty clear that if we feel there’s a viable threat to the person, then we can withhold the name,” Cogbill said.
Cogbill added that the decision to continue withholding the name was not influenced by the deputy’s record or time on the force.
“It has nothing to do with any past history or actions or who the person is,” Cogbill said.
If an investigation determines the threat isn’t real, he’ll release the name, Cogbill said.
Law enforcement agencies may be legally justified in withholding a name right after a shooting if there’s a “clear and direct threat” to the person’s safety, Terry Francke, general counsel with Californians Aware, a nonprofit public records group, told The Press Democrat last week. But Francke said there’s no legal basis to withhold that information indefinitely.
In prior cases involving deputies shooting a suspect, the release of names has varied.
It took two days for Santa Rosa Police and the Sheriff’s Department to release the names of two deputies involved in the March 2007 fatal shooting of Jeremiah Chass, a Sebastopol teenager.
It took two months for sheriff’s officials that same year to release the name of three deputies who shot and killed a man who wounded a deputy. Officials claimed it had taken that long to determine if there were credible threats against the three.
In the Leday case, deputies were called to a Larkfield apartment by a woman fearful of her ex-boyfriend. She told a dispatcher he’d recently assaulted her and was then armed with a knife.
When deputies spotted the man in his car, he led them on a chase from Larkfield to Coddingtown.
At the mall entrance, Leday drove into a light pole and got out of his car. Sheriff’s officials said he was seen reaching for something behind his back and that he wouldn’t follow commands to comply with deputies.
Deputies said they feared he had a weapon. One deputy fired three times, hitting Leday once.