An officer involved shooting that occurred nearly three weeks ago at the Monterey Park Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant was “tragic for all involved,” Police Chief Jim Smith said in a brief statement at a recent city council meeting.
During the confrontation, Monterey Park police officers fired ten shots at 22-year old Chino Hills resident Steven Rodriguez, who died at the hospital. Smith said investigations by outside agencies are pending and declined to say more.
In the audience were family, friends and supporters of Rodriguez, still dressed in the black attire they donned for his funeral service in nearby Montebello earlier that evening.
Rodriguez had roots in the area, which included living in the cities of San Gabriel and Alhambra for years. He attended schools in the Garvey and San Gabriel school districts.
Monterey Park police officers responded on the morning of Jan. 23 to reports that Rodriguez was allegedly smashing in the windows of a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.
He was not deterred when officers used a Taser on him, according to a Sheriff’s report. Monterey Park police officers opened fire on him because Rodriguez allegedly swung twice at them, and they feared for their own safety, the report said.
Officer Everardo Romo and Agent Peter Palomino were identified as the two police officers involved in the shooting. Romo has been on the force for three years and Palomino for over twelve, according to Police Captain Eugene Harris. Both started their careers with the Monterey Park Police Department.
Monterey Park officials declined to speak further on the matter, referring all inquiries to the Sheriff’s department, which also declined to go into more detail beyond initial reports about what happened during the confrontation between Rodriguez and Monterey Park police.
According to the Los Angeles’ Coroner’s officials, an autopsy was performed on Rodriguez’s body, but the results are on a “security hold.”
The Monterey Park city attorney also strongly advised the city council not to discuss the shooting because there is a “threat of litigation” and a “pending investigation.”
A local political activist, Carlos Montes, spoke in support of Rodriguez during public comment at the Feb. 1 council meeting. “Causing a disturbance or breaking windows in my opinion is not a death sentence. In my opinion, the police overreacted to a situation that could have ended in a simple arrest,” he said, adding that an independent investigation of the incident should be conducted.
The shooting incident is being investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, as well as the Los Angeles District Attorney Justice System Integrity Division, a standard practice in cases of officer involved shootings.
Montes, a former Monterey Park resident now living in Alhambra, said the Sheriff’s own record with officer involved shootings has not been very good, and argued that law enforcement agencies will always defend their own.
“If you do not [conduct an independent investigation], the L.A. County Sheriff’s department may conclude that it was justifiable as they usually do, as they always do,” he said.
Montes, who describes himself as a Chicano activist, was involved with the Chicano Blowouts, a series of school walkouts in East Los Angeles protesting educational inequality. He was also part of the Brown Berets, an organization formed in the 1960s and 1970s by working class youth fighting a variety of issues affecting them, including problems with police harassment.
Monterey Park resident Greg Moss also weighed in on the shooting, saying he supports the police department.
“I think we’re fortunate that we have our own police department. I’ve made numerous calls to the Monterey Park police department in the years that I’ve lived here in Monterey Park, and I’ve found them to be very professional, [to have] very good response time,” he said. “They use good judgment and they’re very good about carrying out the laws to the best of their abilities… so I don’t have any doubt that the officers that were involved in the shooting were very saddened by having to take the action that they did, but they do have a right to defend themselves.”
Monterey Park police was involved in two shootings in the last year, according to Captain Harris.
On Easter Sunday, officers killed 63-year-old Edgar Battad during a gun battle on Newmark and Garvey. Last September, officers killed Samuel Liaw, 43, who, according to the Monterey Park police department, approached police with a butcher knife.
Both cases are still under investigation by the Sheriff’s department and the District Attorney’s office.