The U.S. attorney's office will not file civil rights violation charges against three Glendale policemen who shot and killed a Latino man after they mistook a television remote-control device he was holding for a pistol.
Federal authorities announced the decision Friday after completion of a 3 1/2-month FBI investigation into the June 1, 1986, shooting of Javier Alvarado, 23, of Glendale. His family argued that the shooting could have been avoided if police officers had spoken Spanish to him.
"The results of that investigation were presented to the U.S. attorney's office, which declined prosecution," said Fred Reagan, spokesman for the Los Angeles office of the FBI. Reagan and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles refused to comment on the evidence presented in the case.
The federal inquiry marks the third investigation into the shooting that sparked some public criticism and charges of racism against the Glendale Police Department. Inquiries last year by the City of Glendale and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office cleared the three officers involved in the shooting of wrongdoing.
'Acted Within Policy'
"After a rigorous administrative investigation, I feel confident that all Glendale police officers acted within the law and city policy," Police Chief David J. Thompson said in a prepared statement issued Monday. " . . . The department has withstood a nine-month rigid line of inquiry which has been extremely difficult on everyone involved."
Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian said of the decision: "All along I felt that we had not done anything wrong, that our Police Department was within its rights . . . that the police did what they had to do to protect our citizens and protect themselves."
The shooting occurred shortly before midnight June 1 when the Glendale Police Department received a call that a man standing at Pacific and Elk avenues was aiming a gun at passing motorists. When the officers arrived, they saw Alvarado crouched in what they described as a "two-handed combat stance" and ordered him to drop the remote-control channel changer, which they believed to be a gun, police said.
The policemen said they opened fire on Alvarado because it appeared he was going to shoot an approaching motorist. Alvarado, who was shot 11 times in the chest, arms and legs, died several hours later.
The killing ignited complaints last year from Alvarado's live-in girlfriend and mother of his three children, Maria Concepcion Sifuentes, 23, and family friends who contend that Alvarado, a Mexican immigrant, spoke little English and could not understand the officers' commands.
Early in February, Sifuentes, filed a $5-million wrongful death suit in Glendale Superior Court against the City of Glendale that claims police negligently killed Alvarado, violated his federal and state civil rights and intentionally caused his family to suffer emotional distress.
Dennis Schuck, a senior assistant city attorney in Glendale who is in charge of the Alvarado case, said he was "happy, but not surprised" with the decision Friday by federal authorities.
"I didn't think they could come up with any other conclusion," he said.
Glendale police have refused to release the names the officers involved in the shooting. Chief Thompson, who previously cited death threats by local gang members as the reason for not disclosing the names, said Monday that the city attorney has advised the department not to release the names until Sifuentes' lawsuit is resolved.
When asked if safety is still a factor in his refusal to disclose the officers' names, Thompson said: "Yes, I believe it is, but the primary reason is the litigation."