A Guadalupe officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of a 59-year-old male bystander Saturday is the first in Santa Barbara County to be independently investigated by state officials under a new law, according to a police department spokesman on Monday.
The incident occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. when a Guadalupe Police officer recognized a suspect wanted on a felony no-bail warrant near the intersection of Obispo and Birch streets, according to Chief Michael Cash.
In the process of trying to detain the suspect, the officer fired his service weapon and struck Juan Luis Olvera-Preciado, who was sitting in a nearby car, located in the 100 block of Obispo Street.
During a press conference held Monday outside police headquarters, Cash emphasized that the department’s first priority is taking care of Olvera-Preciado’s family and the responding officers, who were not injured.
Lompoc Police on Thursday released six dash cam videos and a 911 call related to the March 28 fatal officer-involved shooting of 26-year-old Krys Ruiz near the intersection of East Walnut Avenue and the 100 block of North H Street.
“One of the main things that I want to put at the top of this is the welfare of the family,” Cash said. “Officers are also having a very hard time with this. This is really tough right now.”
Cash did not identify the two officers that responded, but urged patience — the incident is under investigation by four separate agencies, including the GPD, Santa Maria Police Department and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
He didn’t identify the suspect either, but said he had been apprehended and must be interviewed before any information is released.
The Sheriff’s Office will be assisting the California Department of Justice with the criminal side and provide forensics services, while the SMPD will investigate to see whether policies and procedures were followed, according to Cash.
It was sheriff’s detectives responding to the scene who recognized that the officer-involved shooting’s circumstances met the criteria for AB1506, which triggers a notification to and an independent investigation by the state DOJ whenever an officer-involved shooting results in the death of an unarmed person.
Signed into law on Sept. 30, 2020, and going into effect on July 1, 2021, the law makes the DOJ the lead agency in the investigation.
Cash said that any results of the investigation from his department, the SMPD and Sheriff’s Office will be provided to the Attorney General’s Office for its report.
As part of the investigation, state officials are required to release information on the incident and, upon completion of a report, make its findings public.
Department of Justice officials declined to provide a comment on Tuesday, but said in a prepared statement released on Monday that it immediately deployed its California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California to Guadalupe.
Cash asked for cooperation, calling on people to come forward in order for the investigation to be as “transparent, thorough and complete as possible.”
When a reporter asked Cash to provide specifics about the shooting, he couldn’t offer details other than what was in the press release, which he said was prepared jointly with the Sheriff’s Office.
“I appreciate you bringing that up because you’re speaking for a lot of people out there who would like to know and I try to put myself into those kind of situations,” Cash said. “I want to know, too. I want people to have faith in this process.”
Following the shooting, Cash and his sergeant personally offered their condolences to Olvera-Preciado’s family. In a “raw moment,” Cash said Olvera-Preciado’s wife hugged them both during the meeting.
During the press conference, Cash called the shooting an “incredibly sad, unimaginable moment,” but praised the community for overcoming division and supporting each other. Cash said that Olvera-Preciado’s birthdate of July 12, 1962, will stick with him.
“No one knows where to go, what to do,” Cash said, adding that he will keep reaching out to the family and the community. “We’re going to have compassion, we’re going to have understanding. As long as we keep that, we will be able to get through anything."
This story has been updated to reflect that the shooting is the first in Santa Barbara County to be investigated under a new state law.