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'Overlooked' Penn Case Video Is Found : Police Discover Tape of Slaying Scene as They Prepare to Move Headquarters

September 18, 1986|GLENN F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

Eighteen months after Sagon Penn shot and killed one police officer and seriously wounded another, a videotape of the homicide scene made two hours after the shootings has suddenly surfaced inside the San Diego Police Department.

The tape, narrated by Gil Padilla, one of the homicide detectives in charge of the crime scene, was found a few days ago as the Police Department prepared to move its video library to new headquarters at 1401 Broadway.

"For some reason, the evidence officer overlooked it in preparing the list of evidence (for the Penn trial)," said Deputy Chief Don Davis. "This is extremely rare and obviously very embarrassing to us."

Padilla, who has been transferred to the robbery division, was not available for comment.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Carpenter said the tape shows Padilla walking around identifying pieces of evidence as a homicide technician filmed the crime scene in the Southeast San Diego neighborhood of Encanto.

"The only things he says is, 'This is this address, this is this patrol car, this is that patrol car, this is the body which is lying next to a black Chevelle with license number such and such,' " Carpenter said. "It's really pretty simple."

The prosecutor said the videotape depicts the same images already presented to jurors in Penn's first trial through still photographs and television videotapes. Carpenter indicated that he thought the new evidence would have little impact on a possible second trial.

"I think it can help both sides certainly by explaining a little bit more in a little bit more detail the crime scene," Carpenter said.

Defense attorney Milton J. Silverman was out of town on vacation and has not seen the tape.

In June, a jury acquitted Penn of murder in the March 31, 1985, shooting death of Agent Thomas Riggs and attempted murder in the shooting of Agent Donovan Jacobs. Penn faces a possible retrial on four unresolved charges, including attempted murder of civilian observer Sarah Pina-Ruiz.

The state Supreme Court has delayed the beginning of Penn's second trial pending a decision on whether to review a defense appeal to dismiss the remaining charges because of "outrageous governmental misconduct" by the prosecutor's office.

The videotape marked the second time since testimony ended in the murder trial that the Police Department has turned over new evidence. In May, Assistant Police Chief Bob Burgreen gave prosecutors a transcript of a 1978 Police Academy counseling session with Jacobs.

Witnesses in the trial testified that Jacobs launched an attack against Penn by repeatedly striking him and using racial epithets. The memorandum dealt with concerns by police instructors over Jacobs' views that it was acceptable for police to use obscenities in some circumstances.

Davis said he does not believe the police videotape will shed any new light on the case.

"There's nothing on the tape that hasn't already been known," Davis said. "We have many, many still pictures of the scene and this depicts the same things, only this depicts them in a video format."

Davis said that police officials are reviewing the process used by homicide detectives to collect evidence at crime scenes.

"In this particular case, we had a number of homicide detectives on the scene and more than one person collecting evidence," Davis said. "In the future, we'll have only person who'll be accountable."

Times staff writer Jeffrey Miller contributed to this report.

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