"...three shootings — most officers go through their career with no shootings — it just raises a lot of concerns.”
Published: Monday, July 5, 2010 at 5:32 p.m.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a man last month in Santa Rosa has been involved in three of the 11 officer-involved shootings that the sheriff's office has recorded this decade.
Sgt. Mark Fuston, who on June 1 killed Albert Mike Leday Jr., 49, after a high speed chase, was one of two deputies who fatally shot a Windsor woman in 2000 after she pointed a toy gun at them. In 2003, he shot and injured a fleeing gang member.
A Santa Rosa Police Department investigation continues into the Leday shooting. Fuston was cleared of wrongdoing in the prior two shooting incidents.
Civil rights activists on Monday said they were withholding judgement but said that the prior shootings were notable.
“It doesn't bode well,” sad Carole Howard, a member of the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline, a group that works with people who feel mistreated by police. “It's just one more thing to pay attention to, it's an alert, put it that way.”
Steve Fabian, a boardmember of the county chapter of the ACLU, said, “It's hard to second guess a police officer in this type of situation without knowing all the things that took place, both in the current situation and the prior situations.”
He added, however, “I think that at the same time, three shootings — most officers go through their career with no shootings — it just raises a lot of concerns.”
Sheriff's officials last week said that deputies involved in multiple shootings aren't subject to additional supervision, but that the department reviews each incident to see whether procedures were followed.
On Monday, Sheriff's Capt. Matt McCaffrey said that those reviews do take into account prior incidents where there was use of force.
“You look at what were your findings in the previous shootings, if he followed policy, he followed law, he followed good judgment. If your findings were positive, there's nothing really to go back and look at,” he said.
“Our point of view is to look at it internally to see if they followed procedure, and the second issue is to look at it from a training standpoint,” McCaffrey said. “That's our job as an agency.”
Fuston is not the only deputy to have been involved in multiple shootings. In 2004, Deputy Henri Boustany was involved in two fatal shootings; he was cleared of wrongdoing in both cases.
Of the 11 officer-involved shootings recorded by the sheriff's office since 2000, eight were fatal.
The first of those was in April 2000, and involved Fuston and another deputy, Tom Howard. In that case, the two were responding to a 911 call from Erin McDonald, 31, who said she was being held hostage by a woman with a gun.
In the house, McDonald pointed a cap gun that had been painted black at each of them separately, prompting them to fire.
Both were cleared of wrongdoing, and the District Attorney's Office later concluded that McDonald “orchestrated” a “suicide-by-cop plan.”
In the 2003 shooting, Fuston shot Andrew Valencia, 21, five times in the back, buttocks and legs after pulling him over. In that case, Santa Rosa and Petaluma police investigators said, 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 survived, but a loaded 9 mm handgun was found in his car. Valencia was later sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for a gang-related shooting.
The shooting of Leday came after 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, police and some witnesses said, after he appeared to reach behind his back and pull up his waistband.
No weapon was found on Leday or at the scene.
The case remains under investigation by Santa Rosa Police investigators who will turn over their findings to the District Attorneys Office to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.