#1100MilesInRemembrance: Miles 12-14: Rocendo Arias, Robert Coleman, and Michael Estrada

Still adjusting to this whole moving 3+ miles *every day* thing, so still going a bit slow – not helped by a blister that started forming yesterday, and certainly not helped by the gym being so frakkin packed!

Today, I ran in memory of Rocendo Arias of Yakima, WA. Arias was sitting peacefully in his car assembling an airsoft gun when a cop opened his passenger door and shot him 4 times, once in the head. Another cop, a State Trooper, had seen the car earlier in the hour and simply assumed the man was sleeping. The reports are unclear as to what “crime” the murdering cop even suspected Arias of doing. Barely 24 hours before Arias was murdered, agents from another organization in the same County murdered another man, Jesse J Humphrey, in a trailer less than 10 miles away.

I also ran in memory of Robert Coleman of Flowery Branch, GA, the first fellow Georgian on this journey. Coleman was suspected of stabbing someone at a party earlier in the evening, but when cops arrived neither he nor the victim were at the place of the crime. They responded to a burglary call three blocks away, where they encountered and murdered Coleman. Not that neither stabbing nor burglary are capital offenses in Georgia.

And I ran in memory of Michael Estrada of Sierra Vista, AZ. According to the reports, Estrada was holding a machete in the front yard of a location cops responded to due to a hang up 911 call. The cops claim he made “aggressive statements” and began walking toward one of the officers, when Michael Rathmann shot Estrada. I’ve seen no video of this encounter, so we have no way of knowing what the “aggressive statements” were, but I also know of no law that allows people to be murdered for mere statements or even walking towards someone.

From http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/Man-shot-by-Yakima-police-was-holding-an-Airsoft-gun–238986161.html regarding Rocendo Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — New details have come to light in this weekend’s deadly officer-involved shooting outside a Yakima car wash.

YPD said the officer shot and killed Rocendo Arias because he saw him holding a gun in his car. Arias took a bullet to the head.

Investigators said Yakima Police Officer Casey Gilette saw a suspicious car parked at a car wash. After noticing it hadn’t moved for an hour, YPD said Gilette approached Rocendo Arias’s car. First on the driver’s side, then the passenger’s side and opened the door. The officer told investigators he saw Arias holding a gun.

“It appeared that he had some accessories to the handgun that he was trying to install on it or put pieces of this gun together,” said Yakima police Captain Rod Light.

Gilette shot four times, hitting Arias once in the head. YPD Spokesperson Rod Light maintains the officer had reason to react.

“The deceased had the weapon not only in his hand, but he also had his finger on the trigger,” said Light.

However, investigators learned that Arias’ weapon wasn’t a typical gun. It was an Airsoft gun, considered a replica that shoots plastic pellets. While these guns can fire at high velocity, they’re not designed to be lethal. YPD said it’s not clear if Arias pointed the gun at Gilette before the shooting.

“It’s three in the morning,” said Light. β€œIt’s dark and again we haven’t interviewed this officer yet so it’s hard to speculate what he saw.”

Gilette has been with YPD for 14 months and the Toppenish Police Department earlier in his career.

Investigators plan to search Arias’ car to see what happened to the other bullets. Gilette is now on paid administrative leave during the investigation. He will be interviewed later this week.

And from http://www.kimatv.com/home/video/KIMA-obtains-police-dash-cam-video-from-officer-involved-shooting-250261491.html, also regarding Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — KIMA has obtained the video and sound recordings of the moments just after a Yakima officer shot and killed a man earlier this year. Action News has also learned more about what police are saying happened in those early morning hours.

We obtained the Yakima Police Department’s report that investigated the shooting as well as video and the calls from the officer’s patrol car. It includes Officer Casey Gillette’s own account and some confusion about when he pulled his gun.

“Three shots fired.
Unit one calling, shots fired.
Unit 3 shots fired, suspect is down, shots fired suspect down.”

That’s Officer Casey Gillette’s call to dispatch immediately after he shot and killed Rocendo Arias.

“All available units, 909 East Nob Hill,” from radio dispatch.

KIMA obtained the recording and police dash cam video after filing a public records request with the city of Yakima. You can see one of the first backup officers arrive at the car wash. Dozens show up. They surround the car with guns drawn.

But, you only see the aftermath. Police say there is no video showing how Officer Gillette approached the parked car with Arias inside.
These images from Gillette’s patrol car show he’s out of position to record the fatal confrontation.

In YPD’s incident report, Gillette told investigators he parked that way because he didn’t plan to make an arrest or expect any trouble.
He had gone to the car wash after seeing the car parked there for at least an hour and thought it looked suspicious.

A closer look at the report shows Gillette backtracked on whether he pulled his gun before he opened Arias’ passenger door, or after.
He first told investigators, “I know I had my gun out because I didn’t have to draw it, I mean, It was already right there on him.”
He then gave a different response when asked which hand he used to open the car door, “I don’t believe I had my gun out at that point. There would have been no reason to.”

The report notes it’s common that officers don’t remember drawing their guns in these situations because of the repetition of training.

The report also shows Gillette wasn’t the first to notice Arias’ car.
A state trooper spotted it while she was washing her patrol car.
She says she checked out the scene and assumed the driver was just taking a nap.

A different approach from Officer Gillette, with a very different outcome.

The Yakima County Prosecutor ruled the shooting was justified based on the perceived threat. Prosecutor Jim Hagarty did not respond to our requests for comment today. The attorney for the Rocendo Arias family says the lawsuit against the city of Yakima and YPD for wrongful death is still in process.

From http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/shooting-in-lawrenceville-leaves-suspect-dead-offi/nccgt/, regarding Robert Coleman:

Authorities on Monday released the name of the stabbing suspect fatally shot by Gwinnett County police over the weekend. An officer was wounded in the incident.

Robert Coleman, 30, of Flowery Branch, was shot and killed by officers responding to a burglary call Saturday afternoon at a home near Lawrenceville.

Detectives confirmed that the incident was related to a reported stabbing at a nearby home.

No suspect or victim was initially found when officers responded to a stabbing call in the 3600 block of Willow Wood Way around 4 p.m.

Minutes later, officers received a call about a burglary in progress about three blocks away β€” in the 3800 block of Smokemist Trace. Two officers encountered Coleman while checking the residence and shots were fired, police said.

Coleman died at the scene. One of the two officers was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and later released.

The stabbing victim returned to Willow Wood Way a short time after the related shooting and was transported to a hospital in serious condition. The victim was last reported to be in stable condition.

Witnesses told police that Coleman had attended a party on Willow Wood Way during which the victim was stabbed.

The investigation into the incident is continuing.

Authorities said both officers fired shots during the encounter with Coleman. Both have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure.

From http://www.jrn.com/kgun9/news/Man-killed-in-officer-involved-shootin-238727951.html, regarding Michael Estrada:

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Michael Estrada, 49, was shot during an altercation with a Sierra Vista Police officers early Saturday morning.

Cpl. Scott Borgstadt with Sierra Vista Police tells KGUN9 that 911 operators received a hang-up call at about 3:10 a.m. The operator called the number back to check on the welfare of the residents, and was informed by a male subject that he had dialed a wrong number.

SVPD dispatched two patrol units, to the 1200 block of Paseo San Luis. When the arrived on scene, they found a man in the front yard of the residence.

Estrada began making aggressive statements and started walking toward one of the officers. Officer Michael Rathmann fired his department-issued weapon at Estrada, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, said Borgstadt.

Estrada was transported to a local area hospital area were he was pronounced deceased.

Detectives are conducting an internal investigation into the shooting in cooperation with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.

Per SVPD policy in any officer-involved shooting, Officer Rathmann has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Officer Rathmann is a 13-year veteran of the Sierra Vista Police Department.