Mourners remember man killed during struggle with Richmond police

on September 21, 2014

More than 100 people gathered at Nicholl Park Saturday to remember a 24-year-old man shot and killed during a midnight scuffle with a Richmond police officer.

Family and friends recalled Richard “Pedie” Perez III as a good-natured prankster. One family member described him as a man, “who chose to be with the homeless, the addicts and the rejects.”

“He made the whole room laugh, everyone would light up when Pedie walked in,” Perez’s aunt, Rhonda Reeder Perez said.

Richmond Police say Perez attacked officer Wallace Jensen outside of Uncle Sam’s Liquors last Sunday, triggering the city’s first fatal officer-involved shooting since 2007. The incident, coupled with a spate of gun violence in the city in recent weeks, has marred what had thus far been a year of relative calm, lower rates of violent crime and generally good relations between police and the community.

Police say Jensen, a six-year veteran of the department with a clean record, approached a drunken Perez and directed him to sit on the sidewalk to conduct a records check.

Police say Perez attacked Jensen, and during the fight Perez tried grab the officer’s gun. Physically exhausted, Jensen feared Perez would overpower him and retrieve his gun, police said, and fired three shots striking Perez in the chest.

But the dead man’s family has questioned the police description, and announced Saturday they’ve retained prominent Civil Rights attorney John L. Burris to sue the city and Jensen. Burris spoke at the memorial, and rejected the accusation made by police that Perez reached for Jensen’s gun.

“That is a bold-faced lie,” Burris said. “Everyone has said consistently that he (Pedie) did not reach for the officer’s gun and that the officer stepped back five feet away and emptied at least five shots into his young body.”

Supporters of Perez have also questioned why Jensen, a trained crisis negotiator, was unable to defuse the situation without the use of deadly force. Burris wondered why Jensen didn’t use non-lethal tools like a taser or pepper spray to subdue Perez.

“That’s the real tragedy, that a good, young person was taken away,” Burris said.

Jensen has been placed on paid administrative leave, a standard protocol, pending the results of the district attorney’s investigation into his use of deadly force.

The shooting is being investigated by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.  The department is conducting its own investigation as well.

Earlier in the day, Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown attended the funeral at the Wilson & Kratzer Mortuaries, at the family’s invitation.

Rick Perez Jr., the father, said he spoke to Magnus, who attended the funeral service in plain clothes.

“I said, sorry for not being so happy to see you,” Perez said, adding that Magnus expressed his condolences to the family.

In a statement issued later Sunday, Magnus said, “This is a tragedy for everyone involved: the family and friends of the deceased, as well as the officer and his family.”

Magnus, who cut short a vacation to deal with the aftermath of the shooting, also took to Facebook later in the day to express sympathy, concern and patience.

“I can only hope people are patient and let the evidence lead investigators and the D.A.’s Office to a just finding,” he wrote. “Some folks are very quick to judge, but I understand how personal relationships and people’s own experiences can influence that.”

During the closing moments of the funeral, photographs from Perez’s youth flashed on a screen as “Praise You In This Storm” by the Casting Crowns played over the sound system.

“We worried about Pedie in this neighborhood because there were drive-by shootings,” Rhonda Reeder Perez said. “But I am shocked to know that it was a police officer who did this.”

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