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Death was Sonoma County deputy’s second shooting case
By JEREMY HAY
Officials on Friday released the name of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who shot shot a man to death June 1, saying threats against him had been ruled out or “mitigated.”
Sgt. Mark Fuston, a much-decorated veteran deputy who is a firearms instructor and heads the Sheriff’s SWAT Team, was involved in an earlier, non-fatal shooting in 2002 when he was an officer in Windsor.
In the latest incident, Fuston shot Albert Mike Leday Jr., 49, after a high speed chase that ended in Santa Rosa at the entry to the Coddingtown Mall parking lot. Leday was shot once after he refused to surrender and, investigators have said, appeared to reach behind into his waistband.
Initial reports indicated Leday was shot in the chest.
Fuston, 50, returned to work late last week, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Office has been criticized for taking over a month to release Fuston’s name. Leday’s family retained a lawyer to try and get the information released and the Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU formally requested the release of the deputy’s identity.
Sheriff’s officials had refused to release Fuston’s name because, they said, they had evidence of potential threats against him that needed to be addressed. They have refused to elaborate on those threats and on Friday again declined to detail them, saying that to do so might compromise confidential sources.
“If we expose that information we have, there’s the possibility of it getting back to the source of the information and how it’s coming to us,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Matt McCaffrey.
ome threats have been ruled out and others “mitigated” and “we feel comfortable that although there are risks, they are hopefully at this point not above and beyond the risks normally associated with the job,” McCaffrey said.
Steve Fabian, a director of the county ACLU chapter, said it was an inadequate response.
“They should explain in detail exactly what the threats were, and I think that an explanation’s owed as to why it took so long to determine, obviously, that these threats are not viable.”
Leday’s son, Justin Leday said, “I appreciate that it’s finally come out who shot my father.”
He added: “Obviously, I can’t make any judgment calls as to what was going through this officer’s mind. But to be involved in a shooting twice without a weapon, shows a lack of judgment, a lack of patience, and it seems like he shoots first and asks questions later.”
In the 2003 shooting, Fuston shot a fleeing gang member five times in the back, buttocks and legs after pulling him over. In that case, Santa Rosa and Petaluma police investigators said, Andrew 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 was later sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for a gang-related shooting, but a loaded 9mm was found in his car.
Fuston was cleared of criminal wrongdoing after a seven month investigation.
The shooting of Leday was the climax to 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 after, police and some witnesses said, he appeared to reach behind his back and pull up his waistband.
Asked whether deputies involved in more than one shooting come under extra internal scrutiny or supervision, McCaffrey said they are monitored “from the standpoint of their mental health.”
“In the end,” he said, “We’re going to review it internally, from the policy standpoint, from an employee training standpoint: Is there any thing we’re going to have to change or improve?”
The question of whether a deputy has been involved in more than one shooting is less relevant, he said.
“Each shooting has to stand on its own,” he said. “In other words, just because a deputy’s been in a previous shooting, whether he was 100 percent in the right or there were some problems with it, that doesn’t necessarily bleed over into the current shooting.
“Every round that comes out of the end of a firearm has to stand up on its own as a use of force,” he said.
The Santa Rosa Police Department, which is investigating the shooting under a countywide protocol that calls for outside agencies to evaluate officer-involved shootings, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Friday.
Law enforcement officials refuse to release name of deputy involved in shooting
By JEREMY HAY
Authorities continue to withhold the name of the deputy who shot and killed a man after a high speed chase a week ago.
They say that information developed during the investigation has indicated that there may be a threat to the safety of a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy involved in the case.
“There is an officer safety and employee safety aspect to the investigation,” said Santa Rosa Police Lt. John Noland, who is heading the investigation into the June 1 shooting of Albert Mike Leday, 49.
“We are trying to get that addressed as quickly as we can,” Noland said.
The Santa Rosa Police Department is investigating the shooting under a countywide protocol in which outside agencies investigate officer-involved shootings.
Noland said he could not reveal details about the nature of the threat, or even confirm that they revolve around the specific deputy who shot Leday.
“We can’t because of the nature of it,” he said.
That has upset some activists who say that the public has a right to know the names of law enforcement officers involved in such incidents.
“The question I have is why are the police delaying in giving out the name of the deputy who shot and killed this Army veteran,” said Alicia Roman, a Santa Rosa attorney who is a supporter of the Police Accountability Clinic Helpline, or PACH, a group that works with people who believe the police have mistreated them.
She said police have also not adequately explained the details that they have released. For example, she said, police have not fully described the “confrontation” that occurred between Leday and the deputy after Leday got out of his car and before he was shot.
“What was the confrontation,” Roman said.
Steve Fabian, a director of the Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU, said, “This should be public information.”
Sheriff Bill Cogbill said he met with Santa Rosa police investigators Monday about the case and is “in agreement” with the decision not to release the name.
“It is a legitimate reason we feel for not releasing the name,” he said.
Fabian said that is not a sufficient answer.
“I think at the very least they should be giving the reason and they should be giving specific reasons why,” he said. “What information that could cause them to have a reasonable belief that this is needed. I don’t think that is asking too much.”
Leday, who had a long criminal record, led sheriff’s deputies and Santa Rosa police on a chase from Larkfield to the intersection of Guerneville Road and West Steele Lane. There he crashed into a light pole at the entrance to the Coddingtown Mall parking lot.
According to police, he got out of the car and refused to comply with “numerous orders” to surrender and reached behind himself into his waistband. Police said that after he reached into his waistband a second time the deputy fired three times, striking him once.
Despite a search that lasted for nearly a day, no weapon was found.
The deputy involved has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard in such cases.
Is Death Row worth the cost?
Costs beyond cash
EDITOR: While your article on the death penalty Saturday correctly noted that taxpayers would save $127.5 million a year by replacing the death penalty with life sentences without the possibility of parole, it failed to discuss other important facts: Innocent people will be put to death, and our law is overbroad.
Nationally, 205 people (14 in California) were convicted of murder and later exonerated between 1989 and 2003. Of these, 74 were sentenced to death. DNA evidence alone has exonerated 245 people, 17 who served time on Death Row.
In California, six people who were sentenced to death and granted new trials were acquitted or the murder charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Texas executed Cameron Willingham in Texas in 2004 for arson/murder. Afterward, experts re-examining the evidence concluded the fire was not deliberately set. The above demonstrates a chilling fact; juries make mistakes.
California has the broadest death penalty law in America. One need not intend to kill or be personally present to receive the death penalty.
With our financial crisis, we cannot spend so much money on this flawed system. It is time to tell your representatives to put the death penalty to rest.