It wasn't the swing of a medallion necklace, but the angle of her body that spared Ernestina Valdez from a bullet wound to the chest Tuesday.
Police said Wednesday that the 41-year-old woman who created headlines and was featured on television because of her story of good luck was actually lying when she claimed that a necklace medallion saved her life by partly deflecting the bullet.
Comparing photographs of Valdez with the necklace around her neck and the point where the bullet grazed her body, police say it is clear that the bullet struck her a full four inches below the spot where the medallion dangled.
Detective Richard Sullivan said police have now determined that there were three other reasons that the bullet fired Monday didn't seriously harm Valdez, and none of them had anything to do with the medallion.
Sullivan said that as the shot was fired at Valdez, another woman grabbed and jolted the trigger hand of the assailant just as he squeezed the .25-caliber automatic weapon.
Secondly, Valdez, standing a mere seven feet away from her attacker, turned her body just far enough to the right to protect herself.
Finally, Valdez was wearing three sweaters.
Sullivan said the shot struck Valdez in the middle of the chest, but at an angle that caused the bullet to ricochet off her breast bone.
"At that close of range and if she hadn't turned away, it probably would have killed her," Sullivan said.
The detective acknowledged that the medallion, which bears the words Black Princess, was indeed dented. But he said officers have examined the piece of jewelry and concluded that it was damaged long before Valdez was shot Monday.
Valdez, who gave police an address in the 1800 block of Island Avenue, was treated at the UC San Diego Medical Center. Before her release Tuesday, she regaled police and reporters with stories of the shooting, and how she was sure the medallion had come between her and certain death.
sh Inconsistent Stories
In conducting follow-up interviews, Sullivan said police learned that the home in the 900 block of Beech Street where the shooting occurred was frequently used as a drug house. He said police believe the shooting occurred during an argument over drugs, and that numerous versions about the shooting given by Valdez, the assailant and the witness have all proven inconsistent.
"She has changed her story three or four times," Sullivan said. "The suspect has refused to talk to us. What we have is a bunch of liars in a place where a lot of dope is being used and none of it ever will hold up in court."
He said police intend to interview Valdez further today. Segundino Cardenas, 38, who lived at the Beech Street address, was arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.