He didn’t mean to call his father the last time they spoke. Richard Pedro Perez III, known as “Pedie” to his friends and family, pocket-dialed his dad from Uncle Sam’s Liquor Store just before midnight on Saturday. In the background noise, his father heard something crash to the ground, so he called back.
“I said, ‘What are you doing? You need to go to bed!’” his father said. “You could tell he was drunk.’”
Perez told his dad he would leave, but never did. “Half-hour later, he was dead,” his father said.
The shooting death of Richard “Pedie” Perez, 24, during a scuffle with a Richmond police officer on Sept. 14 has rattled the Iron Triangle neighborhood where Perez lived and raised emotions as conflicting accounts emerge from police and eyewitnesses.
According to police, the officer fired when Perez attempted to grab his gun, but at least one witness says he did not see Perez do so. This was the city’s first fatal officer-involved shooting in seven years.
Perez was a familiar face at the liquor store on Cutting and Carlson Blvd. in Richmond. Although he had grown up and gone to high school in nearby Pinole, for the past few years he had been living in a large, converted wine-tasting trailer on his family’s recycling and scrap lot, where he also worked.
Perez Brothers’ Paper Recycling faces the railroad tracks, less than two blocks from Uncle Sam’s. He would go almost daily to buy beer and chat with the people hanging out, or to buy and pass out cigarettes.
“He hung around with so many different people that we thought he might get in trouble with them and get shot up that way, instead of by one of our finest,” said Richard Pedro Perez Jr., Perez’ father. “Kids out here are getting shot up all the time just by drive-bys and stuff. So that was a concern, but he had a good relationship with everybody.”
Family members admit that in the weeks leading up to his fatal shooting by a Richmond police officer, Perez was struggling to stay on the right side of the law. He also talked about feeling targeted by law enforcement officials.
Perez was arrested for firing his father’s handgun in or around the recycling lot on Aug. 18. ShotSpotter had picked up the sound of gunfire. He was charged with firing a handgun in city limits in a grossly negligent manner. According to his father, Perez’ felony charges were reduced and he served no jail time, although he was on probation and had to fulfill community service hours.
In the weeks following, both his father and grandfather said that Perez had been questioned repeatedly by the same police officer about a recent drive-by-shooting attempt aimed at one of his acquaintances. Every time, Perez told the officer he had no information.
According to his father, on the night of Friday, Sept. 12, two days before his death, an officer issued Perez a DUI while he was sitting in a parked truck in front of the recycling lot. He blew a .08 on a breathalyzer test, was arrested and spent the night in jail due to a prior DUI. He was released the morning of the shooting.
“I think part of the reason he was depressed that night was because he got another one [DUI] right here in front of the yard,” his father said.
That Saturday night, Perez attended a party at a friend’s house on 30th Street and Cutting Blvd., three blocks from the liquor store, where he spent the night drinking Hennessey and beer with friends. A cell phone video from the party shows Perez mugging at the camera and dancing to “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child.
“We were all having fun singing this song,” said Monica Marquez, a friend who was with Perez at the party. “He was being goofy and funny and laughing.”
According to Mohammad Delik, a clerk who works the night shift at Uncle Sam’s, Perez had stopped by the store multiple times throughout the day. The shop’s surveillance camera video shows Perez in the store, drunk and acting silly— at one point he makes a hand gesture, like steam rising, over a female customer’s head. People who knew Perez said this was representative of his sense of humor, drunk or “straight.”
After Perez went behind the counter and took a bottle of Hennessey without paying, Delik said he called over a Richmond police officer patrolling the area, and asked him to tell Perez to leave.
From that point, the situation deteriorated. According to Delik, who was standing feet away from the altercation, Perez struggled with the officer to prevent himself from being handcuffed, moving toward the officer.
In an official report released on Sunday afternoon by RPD Police Chief Chris Magnus, the officer, whose name has not yet been released, said that Perez was “aggressive” and reaching for his gun.
“The suspect grabbed and held on to one of the officer’s hands, while using his other hand to simultaneously go for the officer’s gun,” Magnus wrote. “This was seen by at least one independent witness.”
Delik said he did not see Perez reach for the gun.
The officer fired three shots, hitting Perez’s torso and stomach. He died on the scene.
Friends from the community and family members expressed shock that Perez would be involved in any kind of violent altercation, despite his recent interactions with police officers in the Southern District.
“You always wonder when you see the stories and you hear people and everybody’s like, well, they had a rap sheet a mile long, but he was a great guy! He beat up all these people, but he was awesome!” Rhonda Reeder Perez, Perez’ aunt said. “That wasn’t Pedie.”
Ali Alaz, a clerk at Uncle Sam’s who had known Perez since 2007, but was not at the shop the night of the shooting, said he had “never had a problem with Pedie.” He also mentioned that Perez was kind to everyone in the area. “He used to buy stuff for people who had no money,” Alaz said.
“He loved to laugh at life, and he loved to get everybody laughing. He was just funny,” said Reeder Perez, “They’re making him sound like a lunatic, and he wasn’t. Was he staggering drunk? Absolutely. But there were several people staggering drunk and why did they do this to him?”
On Sunday night, in the community where Perez lived on the eastern edge of the Iron Triangle, between 35-40 people gathered in a vigil to honor his life in front of Uncle Sam’s. The same number showed up with posters and a megaphone in front of the RPD office, yelling for justice and railing against the police force.
The family has said that they aren’t comfortable with a backlash against the whole police force, but they do want the police officer involved to be held responsible.
“I just want flat out justice,” said Perez’ father. “If the facts are that the cop did what I think he did, well, we don’t need cops like that.”
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