The Garden Grove Police Department is celebrating a federal court ruling clearing one of its officers in the 2009 shooting death of “a previously deported felon.” After quick deliberations, a jury in U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna's Santa Ana courtroom found no negligence by the city or its employees in the killing of Jaime Castellanos Suarez.
“The Garden Grove Police Department would like to thank both the federal court and the jury for their service to the community in this matter,” reads a release the cop shop emailed Thursday afternoon.
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Just after 8 p.m. on May 31, 2009, Garden Grove Police Officer Royce Wimmer stopped a vehicle for playing loud music in a
residential area near Galway Street and Trask Avenue. Wimmer then determined one of the two occupants, Suarez, 35, of Anaheim, had a felony warrant out for his arrest for DUI, according to the release, which describes the ensuing struggle and shooting death:
As Officer Wimmer was subsequently preparing to handcuff Suarez, Suarez pushed Wimmer away and fled. Officer Wimmer chased Suarez and took him to the ground where a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Suarez was able to remove Wimmer's service weapon and the fight continued over the weapon. During the fight, Officer Wimmer was able to discharge the weapon, striking Suarez. Suarez was taken into custody and later died of his wounds.
The initial media reports stated Suarez had hit Wimmer in the head and pointed the service weapon at the cop before Wimmer regained the gun and shot Suarez once in the chest. He died at the scene.
Suarez's family filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Garden Grove in 2010, and the trial began in Selna's courtroom last Friday, Oct. 14. The city was represented by the law firm of Ferguson, Praet & Sherman, according to the release.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.