Deputy didn’t wrongfully kill man, jury decides

Despite what some people would like to believe, the vast majority of police related shootings are justified.  We do not have cops running around in “Blackwater” style randomly shooting people without cause.  Public Saftety officers risk their lives on a daily basisi protecting us.  At least in this case, we have had the opportunity for a jury to determine the facts.

From the Orange County Register:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Family of man shot and killed by now-Sgt. Joseph Balicki sued over death, alleging officer’s actions were criminal.

The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA – An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy did not wrongfully shoot and kill a potential third-striker, a federal jury voted Thursday, declining to give the man’s family any damages for the officer-involved shooting.

The unanimous decision clears now-Sgt. Joe Balicki – as well as the county and the Sheriff’s Department – of financial liability in the April 16, 2003 death of Roberto Peralez in Stanton.

Peralez was driving toward Balicki when the deputy fired the fatal three shots through the van’s windshield. Before the shooting, Peralez didn’t obey deputies’ commands to surrender. Balicki testified he feared Peralez was going to run him over.

“I never intended to take that man’s life and was forced into it,’’ said Balicki, a 20-year department veteran. “It’s a very unfortunate case, and a tragic situation for the family … The verdict makes clear the job I do is supported by citizens.”

Prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Balicki.

But Peralez’s family sued in federal court over the death, alleging that the Sheriff’s Department allows officers to use unnecessary and excessive force against civilians.

The verdict was reached after only two hours of deliberation.

Peralez’s 27-year-old daughter, Jessica, cried after hearing the family lost the lawsuit.

“It’s upsetting,” she said, as she wheeled her invalid mother, Lola Peralez, out of the 9th-floor courtroom. “At least I was heard, people know what happened.”

Milton Grimes, the family’s attorney, also expressed disappointment, and said the case was a clear example of excessive use of force.

“Roberto Peralez should not have been killed that morning,” he said.

Jurors heard of Balicki’s prior run-ins with the public, including a December 2002 incident in Irvine when Balicki, while off-duty, pulled his gun on two teenagers in a car and told them to pull over. The teenagers called police. Charges were not filed in that case.

Peralez, a heroin addict, was sitting in his van on Electric Street on the day he died, when Balicki and another deputy shouted at him to surrender.

The deputies testified they followed him from a methadone clinic, and wanted to bring Peralez back to his house, where other deputies were searching for a weapon.

Peralez, whose rap sheet included convictions for assault and burglary, didn’t listen to deputies. Instead, he drank out of a bottle of wine, shut the van’s door, which had been opened by Balicki, and then started to drive away. Balicki, who was standing several feet in front of the van, shot Peralez. He died at the scene.

During closing arguments, Norm Watkins, the attorney representing Balicki, the county and the sheriff’s department, blamed the shooting on Peralez for not listening to deputies.

“No one likes it when incidents like this happen, but police officers have to be able to do their job,” Watkins said.

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