An ex-con with a long criminal history who suffered cardiac arrest after police allegedly used a Taser to subdue him in a struggle with officers has died in Anaheim after being taken off life support.
Fermin Vincent Valenzuela Jr., 32, of Anaheim died about 2:20 p.m. Sunday at West Anaheim Medical Center, the family’s attorney, Garo Mardirossian, told the Orange County Register.
“There was no brain activity,” Patricia Gonzalez, Valenzuela’s ex-wife with whom he had two children, told the Register. “We were just holding his body back. He was already gone.”
“While any loss of life is a tragedy, the death of Mr. Valenzuela while in our custody is particularly impactful and I express my sincere condolences to his family,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said.
Valenzuela succumbed to some sort of “medical distress” amid a July 2 struggle with officers, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.
Valenzuela allegedly followed a woman to her home in the 2600 block of Broadway about 9:15 a.m. July 2.
The woman told her family about the suspicious-looking man when she got into her residence, and a relative called police, Wyatt said.
Valenzuela was pacing in front of the home for a while, according to Wyatt, and it wasn’t clear exactly where police got into a struggle with him.
He allegedly started a “physical confrontation” with the officers, and as they tried to subdue him, he collapsed, Wyatt said.
The officers, who were wearing cameras on their uniforms, immediately attempted to revive him and called for paramedics, the sergeant said.
Valenzuela had a prior criminal history, according to court records.
He pleaded guilty to being under the influence of drugs in November 2009 and was placed on three years probation. He pleaded guilty to battery in February 2011 and was again placed on three years probation.
He pleaded guilty in March 2011 to falsely representing himself to an officer and was sentenced to a month in jail.
The first three cases involved misdemeanor charges. His next case involved felony charges, which were later reduced to misdemeanors. He pleaded guilty in March 2012 to burglary and possession of methadone and was put on three years probation.
When Valenzuela twice failed to report to probation officers in March 2014, an arrest warrant was issued. He also refused to report to residential drug rehabilitation, where he was sent “due to his continued drug use and the fact he was homeless,” according to court records.
He twice more violated the terms of probation in August and October 2013.
Last Sept. 16, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, identity theft, burglary and forgery and was placed on probation for three years.
On Oct. 23, he pleaded guilty to malicious mischief to a vehicle, possession of burglary tools, theft of lost property and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and was again placed on three years probation for the misdemeanors.
On March 16, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and driving under the influence of a drug and was handed a 180-day jail sentence and three years probation.
He also pleaded guilty in March to possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and falsely representing himself to an officer and was sentenced to a month in jail.
When Valenzuela’s family complained to reporters that they weren’t allowed to visit him at the hospital, Quezada made an exception to the usual standard operating procedure to keep visitors away from a suspect involved in an officer-involved incident, Wyatt said. That is done for security reasons when police do not feel they can adequately protect a hospitalized suspect, the sergeant said.
“The chief had compassion for the family and made an exception with certain conditions,” Wyatt said. “On Sunday afternoon he came out and said, ‘Hey, look, what’s the harm in letting the family see their son?’ “
The Orange County District Attorney’s office is investigating the takedown of Valenzuela by Anaheim police. The police department has reportedly turned over the body cameras worn by officers in the incident to the District Attorney’s office.
The Anaheim Police Department’s Major Incident Review Team and Office of Independent Review are conducting concurrent investigations to determine whether the officers acted within department policy, Quezada said
“My command staff and I review every major incident in our continuous effort to evaluate ways to de-escalate tense situations and minimize the amount of force we use,” the chief said. “That process for this incident is underway concurrently as the District Attorney examines the actions of the officers.”
—City News Service