Skip to comments.Juries often disagree with official findings in drug war deaths
Posted on 02/18/2003 1:21:33 PM PST by MrLeRoy
Given that Drug Enforcement Administration officials already have said 14-year-old Ashley Villarreal caused her own death, we shouldn't hold our breath for that agency's investigation into the tragedy. Can't police agencies learn to at least pretend they are conducting a thorough investigation before declaring their agents free of blame?
The problem is, when juries get to examine all the facts, they often disagree:
Take the case of David Aguilar of Three Points, Ariz., a small town outside Tucson.
Aguilar wasn't 14, but 44. He had moved with his family from Tucson to get his children away from drugs and gangs. One afternoon in 1997, two days after local authorities distributed fliers and held a neighborhood meeting warning that a drug offender had moved nearby, Aguilar saw a strange man parked outside his house.
Aguilar's family says he went out and asked the man what he was doing. When he got no answer he returned to his house and grabbed a gun. He told his son he just wanted to scare the guy.
The man in the car, James Laverty, denied Aguilar had previously approached him. He said he told Aguilar he was a police officer. In fact, he was a rookie DEA agent conducting routine surveillance of the road, not of Aguilar or his home.
Laverty, 27, said he thought he heard a gunshot as he tried to pull away, then fired 11 shots in self defense before speeding off.
Aguilar died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Both the DEA and local law enforcement authorities sided with Laverty. But when the family brought the facts to a jury through a wrongful death lawsuit, the jurors rejected the government's argument that Aguilar had been engaged in felony aggravated assault.
They found Laverty 70 percent responsible and awarded the family $1.9 million. The judge reduced it to $1.4 million. The federal government appealed and lost.
In 1992, the DEA joined Los Angeles County deputies and other members of a task force in raiding the ranch of a millionaire on a marijuana warrant. The 61-year-old millionaire, who apparently was inebriated at the time of the raid, grabbed his gun and reportedly pointed it at one of the deputies. The deputy killed him.
Los Angeles authorities defended the deputy, but unfortunately for them they had crossed the county line to conduct the raid. The Ventura County district attorney investigated and found that the search warrant was unjustified. No marijuana was found on the ranch, and a DEA agent's claim that he had seen some plants during an overflight was not credible.
The district attorney said he believed the deputies and agents were motivated by an eagerness to seize the $5 million ranch under drug forfeiture laws. They had obtained an appraisal of the land before conducting the raid.
The government later settled a lawsuit by the family. The federal government paid $1 million and Los Angeles County paid $4 million.
In 2000, the DEA and a Modesto, Calif., SWAT team killed an 11-year-old boy during a drug raid.
This time authorities didn't try to blame the victim.
Alberto Sepulveda was following orders to lie face down on the floor when an officer's gun went off by accident.
The family's lawsuit was settled for $2.55 million by the city and $450,000 by the federal government.
No drugs or weapons were found. The boy's father later pleaded guilty to using a telephone to sell marijuana. He received probation.
The DEA also defended an agent in Brooklyn who fatally shot an unarmed man in the back last year, claiming it was self-defense.
But in a rare turn of events, the Brooklyn district attorney presented an investigation to a state grand jury. That body indicted the agent for manslaughter.
The case was removed to federal court last month. If a judge finds the officer was following proper procedures, the case will be dismissed.
But the case still may go before a jury. The family has filed a suit.
That's a bald-faced LIE!
The federal government and LA County paid NOTHING. The TAXPAYERS (i.e. you, me , and the citizens of LA County) paid $5 million.
All the government agents (including police, sheriff, etc) involved in this horror should have been charged with murder and if convicted, executed.
Money is not a moral substitute for Justice!
Interesting. No posting guidelines broken, only one reply - but hidden in the back room while "death to druggies" threads are prominently displayed. Makes one wonder.....
Drug LEOs corrupt? Nahhh ....
Yes, explain that one if you would. And why is the "death to drug dealers" thread, full of flames, hate and violence, left on the main board?
A few gangland-style executions are a small price to pay to protect the alcohol industry from competition.
A big bump for killing Americans without trials. What a CONCEPT!
How long before some FReepers come to defend that concept?
Sorry, I'm not that good at HTML. Don't know how to link it directly. Its called "I'd Shoot Druge Dealers, Police Chief says".
Its full of the typical "Rah, Rah - lets kill druggies" crap.
"warning that a drug offender had moved nearby"
Wrong! The warning was that a sex offender moved nearby. This is an important distinction because it explains the behavior (below) of this father of five young children, aged three to fifteen..
"The day of the shooting, Laverty was parked outside Aguilar's house, conducting surveillance of Arizona 86. Agents were looking for a green truck carrying a load of marijuana.
``There wasn't really any(thing) specific . . . to Three Points or . . . the block that I was on,'' he said. ``It wasn't imperative that I be right there.''
According to the Sheriff's Department investigation file: Aguilar and his two daughters noticed Laverty's unmarked sedan when they climbed into the family's van to go pick up Aguilar's wife at work. Aguilar stopped at a nearby Baptist church, turned around and drove back home. Aguilar ``thought that guy was gonna do something to us, so he went back home,'' Dominic Aguilar said.
Charde Aguilar said her father drove by slowly in order to get a good look at Laverty, who was ``laying down with his arms behind his head, with sunglasses on.'' When they returned, Aguilar told his daughters girls to go inside.
According to Dominic Aguilar's statement, his father was ``just gonna go scare the guy.'' The father ignored his son's pleas not to confront the unknown man. `That's the last (time) that I saw . . . my dad (alive, when) he went outside,'' Charde said.
The agent said Aguilar approached him as if stalking him. ``It wasn't a plain walk . . . it was kind of a stealthily . . . attack approach,'' he told investigators. Seconds later, Laverty said he saw Aguilar reach for an object inside his sweat pants.
``I turned around to . . . see who he was (and) next thing I saw was the barrel of a rifle trained directly on my head, inches away from the window,'' he said.
Aguilar was holding his .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, Dominic Aguilar said, with his right hand, while balancing it with his left forearm. Laverty said Aguilar ordered him to step out of the car.
But the agent refused ``trying to buy a little bit of time,'' he said. ``At that time I'm thinking of how to survive this incident and believing that at any moment (Aguilar) is going to fire that weapon and kill me,'' he said. ``So I'm trying to think of how to get out of this alive.''
Laverty said he yelled ``police'' at the Three Points resident. But when investigators asked the agent if he had identified himself as a DEA agent, he replied ``No, I believe that at any moment (Aguilar) was gonna pull the trigger and kill me. I saw that he had a weapon trained at my head.''
That day, he was wearing a badge around his neck but had it tucked into his shirt where it was not readily visible.
The DEA agent, who was not wearing a bullet-proof vest, said he drew his 9mm handgun, which was hidden between the front seats, put the car in reverse and fired eight shots at Aguilar through the windshield.
``The whole time that I was firing, my life was in danger and I believe he was shooting at me,'' said Laverty, a former Chicago Police Department officer. ``I never saw that the threat was neutralized,'' he said.
Dominic Aguilar saw it differently.
The stranger, he said, ``pulled back in his car (and) started shooting at my dad. My dad ran. My dad wasn't gonna shoot him.'' Trapped by a fence, Laverty had no choice but to stop his car and drive forward to flee. He did, and fired three more rounds at Aguilar.
``My dad ran,'' Dominic Aguilar said. But ``he shot him right here in the side.'' Bleeding from the abdomen, Aguilar staggered, stumbling several times before falling one last time on the dirt road near his home.
``I ran inside and told my sisters there was (a) shooting,'' Dominic Aguilar said. The teen then ran to a nearby video store and had a clerk call 911 before returning to his father's side.
``I went back, I got my baby brother's sweater and put it on my dad's ... stomach . . . where he'd been shot.''
Laverty told investigators he thought he heard a gunshot but could not be sure if David Aguilar opened fire at him. Dominic Aguilar also said he was unsure if his father had fired at the stranger.
A ballistics report showed that Aguilar's gun had been fired at least once, said Unklesbay. An empty cartridge was found in the chamber of Aguilar's weapon but investigators did not find a .22-caliber slug at the scene.
``All we can say for sure is that the casing that was found in the gun was fired by that gun,'' Unklesbay said. ``But we can't determine if it was actually (fired) that day.''
Eight years ago, Aguilar and his wife moved to Three Points from Tucson, neighbors said, to escape crime and gang violence. A few days prior to the fatal shooting, county deputies notified Three Points residents that a convicted sex offender was being released in their small community.
Attorneys for Aguilar's family said DEA officials failed to consider the heightened concern and increased level of suspicion homeowners in the remote community may have had as a result of the notification.
Aguilar's daughter Charde - who had read a flier taped in her school bus warning school children of the new resident - told detectives her father thought Laverty ``was the guy'' - the sex offender. She told detectives her father stayed home more often after being told of the sex offender.
But Laverty's lawyers say their client knew nothing of the notification when he parked in front of the family's brick home that Friday afternoon.
Most neighbors described David Aguilar as a family man who earned a living working construction jobs, coaching Little League and caring for his children while his wife worked at Sun Tran in Tucson.
Others knew him as a tempestuous man who had occasional run-ins with the law.
When he died, Aguilar had at least three outstanding citations, including one for shoplifting, and an outstanding warrant for his arrest."
Hokay -- Laverty perceives Aguilar approach in sufficient detail to distinguish a "plain walk" from an "attack approach", sees him pull an object from out of his sweat pants (that later turns out to be a rifle), and then actually looks at him.
Was he, perhance, bitten by a radioactive spider or splashed in the eyes with weird chemicals?
The way I read it was that Aguilar was approaching from behind -- he saw him in the rear view or side view mirror. When he turned to the left to actually look at him, he saw the gun.
I don't care. This is not a real smart move to do with anyone, much less an armed cop.
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