ROCKLIN (CBS13) — There are new developments in last week’s fatal officer-involved shooting involving Rocklin police.
Officers fatally shot 23-year-old Lorenzo Cruz of Sacramento following a residential burglary on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 25.
A lawyer representing Cruz’s family says all three responding Rocklin police officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the fatal shooting. That’s raising concern, not just for the suspect’s family, but for others in the community as well.
“A life was lost. And not one, not two, but three officers forgot to turn on their video cameras? It’s a little concerning,” said Kellan Patterson, a civil rights attorney representing Cruz’s family in this matter.
Patterson says the family believes if the three Rocklin officers turned on their body cameras, the family would have a better understanding of why Cruz is dead.
“It wasn’t a spontaneous occurrence. So the police, in the family’s mind, had enough time, and opportunity, to press a button on a body-worn camera and activate recording,” said Patterson.
On Feb. 25, Rocklin police responded to a 911 call of a home burglary around 10 a.m. Cruz allegedly broke into a home, but took off after being confronted by the homeowner who was armed with gun.
Witnesses told police that Cruz tried two more homes, eventually breaking into a car parked on a driveway. That’s where he was confronted by police.
Police say Cruz had a gun pointed at the three Rocklin officers who then fatally shot Cruz in self-defense. However, Cruz actually had an airsoft pellet pistol with the orange tip – usually meant to show it is not a real firearm – painted over. Police still do not know why Cruz had the pistol with him.
“Our officers are not to put themselves in harm’s way to activate their cameras. Our policy basically reads as a ‘should’ and not a ‘shall,'” explained Sgt. Gilbert Farrulla of the Rocklin Police Department’s body camera policy.
Farrulla says he can’t comment specifically on this case, as it’s an open investigation, but says officers did turn on their cameras on – albeit after the shooting fatal shooting. He says an officer’s priority has to be given to events as they unfold.
“People have to realize they are responding to an evolving situation. They’re responding to an in-progress, dangerous felony,” said Farrulla, of the three Rocklin cops involved on the fatal shooting.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of what unfolds in front of the officer. They are exiting the vehicle. They are trying to contact a suspect. They are trying to deal with situation as it presents itself. So, at their first opportunity is when they generally activate them,” said Sgt. Farrulla.
Patterson says Cruz’s family is not suggesting the cops colluded to keep the cameras off. He says there is not enough evidence yet in this still on-going investigation to make that determination. In fact, they admit that the dash cameras in the cop cars we recording the whole time. But they do believe is comes down to police accountability.
“If there is an accountability piece, what will (Rocklin Police) Chief Butler do? What are his recommendations going forward? And how will he work with family in order to uncover exactly what happened?” asked Patterson.
The family has not yet filed a formal complaint. Patterson says Rocklin Police Chief Butler and the city attorney have been “forthcoming and open” during their meetings with Patterson and the family. They will wait until the police finish their investigation before deciding what to do next.
The Placer County District Attorney’s office is also conducting a parallel investigation into the fatal shooting, as is protocol in a fatal officer-involved shooting.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family pay for Cruz’s memorial services. Patterson says Cruz graduated with honors a high school in Livermore, Calif. He was living with his family Sacramento.