By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Prosecutors elected not to charge the Guadalupe police officer who shot and killed a bystander in 2020, the California Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.
On the night of Aug. 21, 2021, Guadalupe officers recognized a man at the intersection of Birch and Obispo streets as a gang member with an outstanding no-bail felony arrest warrant. Officer Miguel Jaimes fired at the wanted suspect, but instead hit 59-year-old Juan Luis Olvera-Preciado, who was sitting in his car in front of his home. Medical responders pronounced Olvera-Preciado dead at the scene.
Jaimes fired three rounds at the suspect, whom he incorrectly believed was armed, missing each time, according to a report released by the state DOJ.
One bullet ricocheted off the ground, traveled 174 feet, entered a slightly ajar car door and fatally wounded Olvera-Preciado, according to the DOJ report. At the time of the shooting, Olvera-Preciado was planning to go out to dinner with his wife, who had not yet stepped into the car.
The bullet struck Olvera-Preciado’s face and then lodged in the right temporal lobe of his brain.
DOJ investigators determined, because of a lack of lighting, Jaimes could not see Olvera-Preciado setting in the car.
During the standoff, the suspect pulled a butane torch out of his pocket that officers likely mistook for a gun, DOJ investigators determined.
The wanted man “was a suspect in a fire, he attempted to evade the officers, he failed to comply with commands to show his hands and ultimately ‘punched out’ his arm, possibly holding the torch, which was shaped like a firearm,” according to the report. “These facts would support a reasonable though mistaken belief that (the suspect) posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death.”
Jaimes wore a body camera during the incident, but he failed to activate it.
The Department of Justice concluded Jaimes is not criminally liable for Olvera-Preciado’s death, but the DOJ is recommending changes to the Guadalupe Police Department’s policies and practices, including those related to de-escalation tactics, body cameras and handling of officer-involved shootings.
Last year, Olvera-Preciado’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court, alleging the shooting was careless, senseless and unjustified. The actions of Jaimes, coupled with the lack of training by the Guadalupe Police Department, resulted in the fatal shooting, according to the suit.