Gov. Jerry Brown announced late Friday night he is reversing the decision to release a convicted cop killer on parole, keeping the man who killed San Diego Police Officer Archie Buggs behind bars.
Jesus Cecena has spent 37 years in prison for the “execution style” death of Buggs, a 4-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). In 1978, Buggs pulled over Cecena for a traffic stop in Skyline. In response, Cecena pulled out a gun and shot the 30-year-old officer to death.
In August, the state Parole Board granted Cecena parole – a decision vehemently opposed by local law enforcement and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office.
On Friday, Gov. Brown decided Cecena needed to remain in prison.
“Mr. Cecena turned a routine stop for speeding into a cold-blooded execution of a beloved police officer who worked earnestly to protect his community,” Brown wrote in his decision. “Mr. Cecena’s actions had a devastating impact not only on Officer Buggs’ family and friends, but also on those who served with him, the law enforcement community generally, and members of the public.” Click here to read the governor's full decision.
Brown said he believes the convict still poses “an unreasonable risk of danger to the public” if he is let out of prison because he has not fully accepted responsibility for Buggs’ murder and has not acknowledged his calculated actions.
Cecena was originally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1979, but in 1982, the sentencing law regarding minors changed. Cecena's sentence was amended to life with the chance of parole because, though he was a known gang member, he was 17 at the time of the shooting, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
Since his sentence changed, Cecena was denied parole more than a dozen times.
But in 2014, a two-member panel from the Parole Board sent a letter to the governor's office, recommending Cecena be released. They said he was eligible for Youth Offender parole under the state's law.
Local law enforcement was immediately outraged and began their fight to keep Cecena in prison.
Brown later overturned the panel's 2014 recommendation, as he did the 2015 recommendation.
In his decision released Friday, Brown said he recognizes that Cecena was 17 years old at the time, experienced an instable childhood and made efforts to improve himself while in prison.
“However, they are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate he remains unsuitable for parole,” the governor wrote.
On Saturday, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman released this statement praising Brown's decision:
“We applaud the Governor’s decision to deny parole for the killer of Officer Archie Buggs. Police officers put their lives on the line every single day to protect our citizens who we so proudly serve. This decision sends a clear message that will help keep our communities safer and our police officers safer.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who stood with us in this battle to keep this cold blooded killer behind bars. In the end, our voices were heard. Please keep the family, colleagues, and friends of Officer Archie Buggs in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to this day, to mourn the loss of a loved one.”
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis also released a statement Saturday about Brown’s decision to keep Cecena locked up.
“Thanks to the Governor and all those who worked so hard to make sure Officer Buggs' voice was heard, a cop killer will remain behind bars where he belongs,” Dumanis said. “This was a cold-blooded execution of an on-duty SD police officer, which devastated the officer’s family, his department and our community.”
“Cecena's crime was callous, inexplicably senseless and demonstrated a total disregard for human life and disdain for those in a position of authority,” the DA added.