The death of a 19-year-old Latino man, killed last weekend by gunfire from undercover CHP officers, was protested Sunday at the CHP office in Santa Ana.

“We’re protesting because they think because we are people of color, they can kill us,” said organizer Naui Huitzilopotchtli.

About 65 people showed up for the protest that was “very peaceful and orderly,” said Santa Ana police Sgt. Dominic Padilla. “There were no arrests or problems with the demonstration.”

Last Sunday night, Pedro Villanova, a Canoga Park teenager, was at the wheel of his pickup truck as it peeled out from an illegal “sideshow” in southeastern Los Angeles County. An unmarked CHP unit chased the pickup truck to a dead end at Fullerton Municipal Airport, and Villanueva was shot by one or more undercover officers as he attempted to drive past them.

“How was he supposed to know it was an undercover unit?” Huitzilopotchtli asked. And he said the CHP officers had to know the pickup driver was Latino.

“They’re following him, they’re checking his license plate, and it comes up Villanueva,” he said.

“This happened in a mostly-minority neighborhood in Fullerton,” Huitzilopotchtli told CNS today. “If it were a white neighborhood, this wouldn’t have happened.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the CHP has a policy that allows officers to shoot into moving vehicles. Most police agencies do not allow that, according to law enforcement experts quoted by The Times.

Villanueva’s passenger was shot in the arm, and the CHP, Fullerton police and Orange County prosecutors were investigating the shootings.

“We were following some people,” CHP Capt. David Moeller told City News Service from the scene.

Spectators and participants have been killed at past burnout sideshows, and police have been playing cat and mouse with large roving bands of car enthusiasts late at night across the Southland.

The following or pursuit ended at about 10:50 p.m. Sunday, at Pritchard and Commonwealth avenues, near the Fullerton airport.

“The CHP officers attempted to stop the truck on Pritchard, north of Gregory,” Fullerton police spokeswoman Kathryn Hamel said. “The truck made a U-turn and drove directly into the path of the officers.

“Both officers engaged the vehicle and an officer-involved shooting occurred.”

The suspect pickup had just hit another vehicle prior to driving toward the unmarked vehicle carrying the CHP officers, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing law enforcement sources.

Hamel told City News Service she didn’t know if the men who were shot knew the two CHP officers were law enforcement officers when they tried to make the stop on the car.

“Their (CHP) car was equipped with lights,” she said.

However, she didn’t know if the lights were on when the stop was attempted or whether the undercover officers had a dash cam in their car that was operating at the time of the stop.

“Those are all good questions,” she said. “People are asking them and I’m sure we’ll have the answers when the investigation is completed.”

Hamel said the Fullerton police, in conjunction with the CHP, was doing the criminal portion of the investigation, which extended from the surveillance up to the OIS.

The Orange County district attorney’s office was handling the investigation of the OIS, she explained.

–City News Service

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