SAN DIEGO (AP) — Video from home surveillance and police body cameras show a San Diego police officer fatally shooting a mentally ill Mexican man last week who was wielding a metal curtain rod when he charged officers.
Mexican officials have strongly criticized the Oct. 19 killing and another fatal shooting of a Mexican man four days later by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in San Diego.
Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the Mexican consul general in San Diego, said Wednesday after the video was made public that both victims had psychological problems.
“We are, as you may imagine, concerned because of the excessive use of force in both cases on the part of law enforcement agencies, as well as by the fact that it seems that in both cases both individuals were suffering serious mental health problems, which in itself, made them vulnerable,” he said in an interview.
In the first shooting, body-worn camera footage released by the San Diego Police Department shows a screaming Jose Alfredo Castro Gutierrez, 39, sprinting toward police on a dark street while clutching the black curtain rod. Castro falls to the ground when he is shot, and writhes until officers came to his side to help. He died hours later at a hospital.
Police have said Officer Isai Castillo fired his pistol at the man, who was struck at least once. Other officers fired bean-bag rounds and a stun gun at Castro.
Castillo can be heard shouting commands at Castro in Spanish, ordering him to drop the object in his hand. Another officer shouted “drop it” in English several times.
Eugene Iredale, an attorney who is advising the family and the Mexican government, said the killing was unwarranted. Iredale conceded that police might have been justified in firing non-lethal rounds since they were being charged at in the dark.
“What we quarrel with, what we believe was completely illegal and unreasonable, was the use of deadly force,” Iredale said. “This death was a wrongful death.”
Castro is heard repeatedly shouting in Spanish in the background of the 911 call during a violent disturbance that led police to the home where he was living. Castro had been smashing windows and other items in the house, police said.
Castro’s widow, Ana Ojeda, said her husband had experienced psychotic episodes when they lived in Mexico. Police were called in Mexico but they never drew their guns, Ojeda said in Spanish.
The couple married three years ago and have a 20-month-old daughter. They had been living in San Diego for about a year while Castro worked in construction.
“He was an exemplary man in terms of being responsible. He was a man who smiled, was friendly and helped people. He behaved well toward his friends,” Ojeda said.
Meanwhile San Diego police are also investigating the Oct. 23 shooting death by a Border Patrol agent of David Angel Villalobos-Baldovinos, 30, who lived in Tijuana, Mexico.
The agent was trying to “apprehend a man illegally entering the United States immediately west of” the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, the Border Patrol said in a brief statement a day after the shooting.
During the arrest attempt “an altercation ensued” and agent fired his weapon, hitting the man, who died at the scene, the statement said.
Brittany Villalobos, the man’s sister, called for the release of any videos of the fatal encounter.
“David had a huge heart, and he was loved by so many. Why did he have to die?” Brittany Villalobos said in a statement provided by the advocacy group Alliance San Diego.
David Angel Villalobos-Baldovinos was developmentally delayed and had a hard time being separated from his family, the statement said.
He was born in Mexico but spent most of his life in California with his mother and five younger siblings, who are all U.S. citizens, according to the statement.