RICHMOND, Calif. - A measure of vindication came Wednesday night for the family of a young man who died in a 2014 officer-involved shooting.
Richmond's Citizen Police Review Commission, in a 7-1 vote, sustained a complaint that excessive and unreasonable force was used against 24-year- old Richard "Pedie" Perez.
The vote came after a marathon four-hour closed session, in which the commission heard the findings of its own investigator.
"We are extremely thankful for the independence, depth, and thoroughness of our investigator," said Commission Chairman David Brown, in announcing the vote just before 11 p.m.
Several Perez family members applauded and called out their thanks at the meeting's conclusion.
"My son knew everybody in this neighborhood, " said Richard Perez, Jr. whose family-owned recycling and hauling business has been operating in Richmond for more than 50 years.
His business is plastered with large banners, criticizing the Richmond Police Department and demanding "Justice for Pedie."
"From here, we can practically see the liquor store where he got shot and everyone there knew him," continued Perez, Pedie's father.
Surveillance video from that night shows Perez drunk and goofng around in the store.
Moments later, it shows him stagger in from outside the store, and collapse in the aisle, where he died.
The officer who shot him three times retired on a stress diability soon after.
"We finally made it to this point and I can't believe it, " said Pedie's grandmother Patricia, addressing the commission before it went into closed session.
Multiple investigations have cleared the officer, but the family believes those were flawed and one-sided, and had pinned their hopes on the Citizen Review panel.
"I hope something like this doesn't happen to any of you," grandfather Richard Perez told the members, "because you're going to want to talk about it, and you're going to want people to listen."
On September 14, 2014, Officer Wallace Jensen approached Perez while doing a security check at Uncle Sam's Liquors on Cutting Boulevard.
He knew Perez was unarmed when he told him to sit on the curb.
"He asked the cop if he was being arrested, and he said no just detained, so Pedie got up and started walking," said Pedie's father.
That's when the officer tackled Perez from behind and they tussled on the ground.
Officer Jensen claimed he shot Perez because the young man was grabbing for Jensen's gun.
"We have six witnesses that say he didn't do that, six witnesses we say he was barely getting up off the ground, 6 witnesses who say he had his hands up saying, don't shoot me," said Pedie's father.
Store video shows an obscured view of the altercation.
The department did not have body-worn cameras ar the time.
"Not very many people, fortunately, have been in a fight for their lives," Richmond's Police Chief Allwyn Brown told KTVU, as the comission went behind closed doors.
Brown was not chief at the time, but he was on the command staff, and is familiar with the incident and the protests that followed.
He supports the deadly force, because the officer said he feared for his life.
"Studies, decades-old studies show if you're a law officer involved in a physical fight and you lose your gun, you get killed with it," said the chief.
After the commission ruling, the police union reacted.
"People from the community are untrained and don't have the level of experience law enforcement has," Police Officer Association President Ben Therriault told KTVU."It's emotional, I get that, and there's hindsight after the fact with witnesses who weren't around originally."
The commission's vote may lay the groundwork for policy change recommendations in the future.
The family hopes it prompts the Contra Costa County grand jury and the new District Attorney, to take a closer look at the incident.
"The truth is what we're seeking, " said father Richard Perez, Jr. "after the police slandered my son."
The family previously settled a wrongful death lawsuit against Richmond for $850,000. "I would gladly pay back three or four times that to have our son back, in an instant."