Suspect in custody shoots self
SAN BERNARDINO, CA
12:58 AM PST on Saturday, December 20, 2003
MUSCOY, Calif. -- A man who shot and wounded a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop in Muscoy on Friday morning killed himself an hour later while alone inside a sheriff's interview room with a pistol he apparently sneaked into the building, officials said.
Calif. Man Shoots Cop Then Kills Self While in Custody
SAN BERNARDINO: The sheriff says he wasn't searched properly. The suicide was videotaped.
By TIM GRENDA AND IMRAN GHORI / The San Bernardino Press-Enterprise
Sheriff Gary Penrod said officers failed to adequately search the man, identified by the San Bernardino County Coroner's office as Ricardo Alfonso Cerna, 47, of San Bernardino.
The deputy shot during the traffic stop, Mike Parham, 31, is in critical but stable condition and is expected to recover, officials said.
In an extraordinary move, a 13-minute surveillance-camera video that included footage of the man's suicide was shown by the Sheriff's Department to reporters, the leaders of local Latino groups and officials from the Mexican consulate to quash any questions regarding the department's treatment of Hispanic subjects.
The video shows Cerna pulling a .45-caliber handgun from his pants and firing one shot into his left temple.
"The best way to dispel any rumors was to have the media view this tape," said Undersheriff Bob Peppler.
The video, which sheriff's officials said was unedited, begins with Cerna being brought into an interview room where Sheriff's Sgt. Bobby Dean uncuffed him and had him sit in a chair in front of a table.
Cerna, looking tired and disheveled, only spoke briefly and in Spanish, replying to questions from Dean.
He leaned down on the table on his right arm for much of the time, occasionally rubbing his head, his nose and eyes with his hand, and coughing a few times. His eyes were downcast, only looking up a couple times when speaking to Dean. He responded with a short, tired laugh when Dean asked him the Spanish word for wallet and he responded " cartera."
At one point, Dean took Cerna out of the interview room for about four minutes to have his fingerprints scanned electronically. The man was brought back shortly because the machine wasn't working at the time, officials said.
Shortly after they returned, someone brought in a bottle of water and a cup of coffee for Dean. Dean stepped out of the room, leaving Cerna alone.
Cernasat down with his back against the wall, took the cap off the water bottle, took two gulps, and put the bottle down. He started breathing heavily, pulled a large handgun from the front of his pants with his left hand and shot himself in the left temple.
The video ended with an expletive from Dean off camera.
Search called inadequate
Penrod said deputies failed to adequately search Cerna before he was put in a car, and again when he was transferred to the homicide division office. Each receiving deputy may have wrongly assumed the previous officer adequately searched the man, he said. Names of the arresting officers were not released.
Ron Martinelli, a police consultant and legal expert on law enforcement cases, said by phone Friday that the man should have been searched twice, stripped of his clothes, and put in a jump suit before he was ever put into an interview room.
"If they do a good search, and take his clothes, and put him in a jumpsuit, there's no problems of him not being handcuffed," he said.
Martinelli said 38 percent of all officers killed in the line of duty since 1980 died as a result of not doing a search, or doing a poor search, of a suspect.
Penrod said confusion among the three agencies involved - the Highway Patrol, San Bernardino police and the Sheriff's Department - may have contributed to the oversight.
"Obviously there was a mistake made," Penrod said by phone Friday. "It was hectic and it was a guy who was cuffed by somebody other than the transporting officer.
"Now we've got some procedural issues that we need to address - where did things go wrong," Penrod said. "I'm just glad this guy didn't kill anybody else and that our deputy is going to make it."
Parham, the deputy shot by Cerna during the traffic stop, was in critical but stable condition with a wound in the abdomen that damaged his liver, stomach and lungs, Penrod said.
The injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
"He'll be home by Christmas," the sheriff said.
Parham, a deputy since 1998, was shot twice at about 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of California and Adams streets in Muscoy, northwest of San Bernardino, said sheriff's spokeswoman Robin Haynal.
He was struck once in the abdomen and once in his bulletproof vest and taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center for surgery, she said.
The shooting unfolded after Parham tried to stop Cerna's white 1980 Nissan at the intersection of State and Adams streets, officials said.Cernawouldn't pull over, and Parham gave chase for about a minute along Adams Street until the suspect's car crossed California Street, jumped the curb and came to a stop, officials said.
As the deputy approached in his squad car, Cerna leaped from his vehicle with a large-caliber handgun, officials said.
He shot at the front of the deputy's car, hitting the windshield and then the hood, continuing to fire as he ran past the driver's side of the car where he blew out the side window, sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said.
Beavers said she didn't know the exact number of shots fired.
Parham wasn't able to get out of his car or fire back, officials said. He did radio for medical help, they said.
School put on lockdown
The scene of the shooting is south of California Elementary School, which was in session at the time, school officials said.
"At the time of the shooting there was a class outside participating in one of their PE lessons," said Linda Hill, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino City Unified School District. "Those students hit the ground as their teacher directed."
The campus was put on lockdown immediately following the shooting. Counselors were sent to the school to talk to both staff and students, Hill said.
After the shooting, Cerna attempted to run inside a house on Adams Street, but the resident ran into the house and locked the door, said sheriff's deputy Lt. Rick Carr . Cerna then ran through the back yard to a house on Mesa Street.
Sergio Quintero, 21, and his nephew, Roberto Deharo, 11, were sitting inside the garage when Cerna walked through the open door and offered for a ride.
Quintero told the man he had no car and couldn't give him a ride. Cerna then asked for a shirt and Quintero gave him a black T-shirt bearing the picture of a snake.
Cerna also asked for a rake and shovel, which he took out into the front yard.
Quintero said he thought the situation was "weird," but didn't know that police were looking for the man.
But while Cerna was out front, Quintero noticed police officers in his back yard and asked if they were looking for someone. He said he then told them about the suspect in the front yard.
The police came out front, pulled their guns and told the suspect to get on the ground, Quintero said.
"They told him to stay down and don't move," Quintero said. "He laid on the ground and they handcuffed him."