FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2023
Contact: Ted Asregadoo, Public Information Officer, 925-957-8638
DA Report: Use of Force Justified in Shooting Death Involving San Pablo PD
Martinez, Calif. – The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office has determined San Pablo Police Officers were legally justified in their use of force against 45-year-old Sergio Baldemar Escalera-Valdez in 2021.
Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident reports (LEIFI) are conducted by the CCCDAO whenever a law enforcement officer or a civilian is shot, killed, or dies during an encounter with members of a police agency. The District Attorney’s Office conducts its own independent investigation into law enforcement fatal incidents to determine if officers are criminally liable for their actions. If evidence of criminal conduct is found during the DA’s investigation, a LEIFI report may be used in a trial as evidence – and will not be released to the public until the trial has concluded. However, if the DA’s Office determines that criminal charges will not be filed, the report will be released to the public in a timely manner.
District Attorney Diana Becton notes, “My promise to the voters of Contra Costa County has consistently been about prioritizing public safety, transparency, and increased accountability. When my office undertakes a LEIFI investigation, our goal is to thoroughly investigate the facts to determine criminal liability and detail those findings in a clear and comprehensive manner.”
The incident involving Valdez started around 2:25 in the afternoon on December 15th, 2021, in the parking lot of the Evergreen Market in San Pablo. An employee at the market called 911 to report a white or Hispanic male in the parking lot holding a firearm. The employee also noted that it appeared the man was manipulating the firearm’s magazine.
When officers from San Pablo Police were dispatched to the area, they met at a staging area near the Evergreen Market to prepare to contact Valdez. A dispatcher radioed to the officers that the man was seen driving a red Toyota Tacoma recklessly out of the parking lot. Officers spotted the vehicle and pursued Valdez and got him to pull over. Officers noted that Valdez appeared to be moving around the cab of the truck in an unusual manner. With their weapons drawn, officers ordered Valdez to show his hands multiple times. He initially responded “No” but then placed his hands outside the window of the truck – where his hands appeared to be bloody. Valdez then exited the vehicle with his back toward the officers and had what appeared to be a firearm in his hand. When Valdez appeared to manipulate the weapon by “racking the slide” (i.e., pulling the pistol’s slide to the rear and releasing it – which is a movement consistent with loading a cartridge into a firearm’s chamber), he turned around and faced the officers. After repeated commands to drop the weapon, Valdez brought the weapon up. The officers, believing, they were in imminent danger of Valdez firing his gun at them, fired their weapons at him. After Valdez was no longer a threat, officers kicked away the gun – which was later identified as a BB-handgun. Emergency medical responders arrived on the scene, and attempted life-saving measures, and transported him to a local hospital where he later died from his wounds.
Witness statements from those who were related to Valdez noted that he had been depressed for several months due to financial difficulties. He also said to family members that he planned to kill himself. On December 15th about an hour before the 911 call was made, an employee from the Evergreen Market interacted with Valdez in the parking lot after Valdez called him over to his truck. Valdez attempted to give the worker money, but the worker refused. He then began to cry and the worker offered to help him with whatever was causing him grief. Valdez said there was no way to solve his problem and that he wasn’t going to kill himself but would “let the cops do it for me.”
On December 16th, Dr. Arnold Josselson performed an autopsy on Valdez for the Contra Costa County Coroner. In his report, Dr. Josselson noted that Valdez had seven gunshot wounds, with a fatal wound to his chest that also penetrated his liver. Toxicology results noted Valdez tested positive for “methamphetamine, amphetamine, and THC (marijuana). It also revealed that Valdez’s blood alcohol level was .210 % (over twice the legal limit for driving under the influence).”
In its legal analysis, the District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officers’ actions in stopping Valdez in his vehicle and attempting to detain him were lawful – given the information officers received from the 911 call. Furthermore, the officers involved in the shooting were justified in their lethal use of force due to their reasonable belief that they needed to defend themselves against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. As such, no further action will be taken in this case.
The District Attorney’s Office notified the Valdez family about the publication of this report. A copy of the report has also been sent to the San Pablo Police Department, state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office, and is available on the District Attorney’s website.