A family’s mournful plea for the name of the U.S. Border Patrol agent who fatally shot a woman in South Bay on Sept. 28 was met with a statement from the Chula Vista Police Department that the investigating agency fears for the officer’s life and will not release his name at this time.
“While we recognize that the names of law enforcement personnel involved in shootings are generally subject to disclosure, the law does provide an exception when there is concern for the officer's safety,” the statement read.
The police department also asked that the media not release the agent’s name unless it is disclosed by the District Attorney’s office as part of a mandatory review, or as part of any civil action.
“By putting his name out there, you are putting his life in danger,” Chula Vista Police Department Capt. Gary Wedge said Friday.
Today, the shooting victim's family filed a claim in federal court as a precursor to a lawsuit. The family and their attorney, Eugene Iredale, are asserting wrongdoing in the death of Valeria “Munique” Tachiquin Alvarado, 32, who was shot after allegedly hitting an agent with her car.
Police said Alvarado, a mother of five, was trying to flee an apartment known for drug activity where plainclothes Border Patrol agents were trying to arrest a criminal last Friday. She struck an agent with her car twice as she attempted to pull the car away from the curb and flee, police said.
When she pulled forward and struck the agent for a second time, he fell upon the hood of her dark green Honda, and Alvarado sped away with the agent clinging to the car, according to police.
Police said she then traveled about 200 yards, at times reaching 25mph, going west on Moss Street with the agent on the hood of her car, according to details released Tuesday by the Chula Vista Police Department.
In a lengthy interview Friday, Alvarado’s husband, Gilbert, begged for answers - answers to everything from the agent’s name and prior employment history - to how he should explain to his 4-year-old son, Israel, that his mother will never be coming home again.
“His birthday is on the third of next month, and he doesn’t even understand right now,” Alvarado said. “He just keeps asking, ‘Is mom going to be at my birthday?’”
The family’s attorney, Iredale, listed three specific questions he has about the interpretation of events provided by the U.S. Border Patrol and the Chula Vista Police Department. He questions whether officers had a search warrant in hand, whether the agent fell upon the hood of the car or leaped upon it, and whether the officer was still on the hood of the car or standing upright when he fired the fatal shot.
Some witnesses have provided NBC 7 with the latter description of where the officer was when he fired his last shot, but their accounts have differed.
Iredale said Alvarado was shot nine times.
In the initial statement Border Patrol provided following the shooting last Friday evening, agents said the plainclothes officer was in the area to serve a warrant on the apartment.
“It’s come to our attention that now there’s contradictory information and that there was no warrant in hand. That’s contradictory information. I don’t know which is true,” Iredale said.
An NBC 7 request for the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant was unanswered by Border Patrol Friday evening. The agency also did not respond to a request for information about the courthouse, department and judge who signed the search warrant.
Several witnesses told NBC 7 that Valeria Alvarado fled from an apartment in the Villa Hermosa complex, which is across the street and about 200 yards to the east of the Villa Marina complex her car was stopped in front of after the shooting.
A witness Friday said both Valeria and her husband Gilbert were regular vistors at the Villa Hermosa apartment.
“There was always a bunch of people there, coming in and out all the time,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified for safety concerns.
She described a violent episode on Sept. 8 several weeks prior to the shooting.
“I came downstairs and the police were here, the firefighters, the medical personnel because there had been an incident in that apartment. Some people say stabbing, someone was stabbed or someone was shot,” the witness told NBC 7. “Nobody died, but we did see the cleaning of blood and everything.”
Capt. Wedge, with Chula Vista police, confirmed there was a shooting at the apartment on Sept. 8 around 11 p.m.
Wedge said a victim was shot in the foot near the apartment and treated for injuries in the apartment, but few other details were immediately available.