San Diego

‘Everybody's Scared': Family of Man Shot by Deputy Meet With Sheriff Department

Jonathan Coronel, 24, was shot and killed Wednesday, July 5

Family members of a man who died during a confrontation with a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy met with investigators Thursday.

"There's no trust of the department. Everybody's scared. What the department needs to do is engage with the community," said Diego Coronel, the uncle of Jonathan Coronel. "Come together as one. They run the streets. We live in the streets."

One week ago, Jonathan, 24, was shot by Deputy Christopher Villanueva in a private yard on North Melrose in Vista. 

Villanueva was in the area with the Gang Enforcement Detail when Coronel was spotted. At the time of the shooting, Coronel had an active felony warrant for his arrest.

Family members met with the captain at the Vista sheriff's station for 90 minutes Thursday. The family meeting with the Sheriff's Department Captain was arranged with assistance from the civil rights advocacy group National Action Network.

The family characterized the meeting as productive but say there is still mistrust. 

"I believe what the witness says that he was on the ground. Officers lie all the time. I see it on the reports," said Diego. "You can not trust an officer that he was on the ground because he already shot 16 shots."

This is the statement issued by sheriff's officials following the meeting: 

"The San Diego County Sheriff's Department empathizes with the family and friends of Jonathon Coronel for their loss. We also recognize their right to ask questions. It is always our goal to take a suspect into custody safely, regardless of the crimes they are accused of or their criminal history."

The statement went on to say the department is working closely with the District Attorney's Office to investigate the shooting. The results of the investigation will be reviewed by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"It is our priority to complete this investigation in a timely and accurate fashion," officials said. 

Homicide investigators with the sheriff's department described the events as a foot pursuit that led to a confrontation. 

Coronel was in a crouched position when he was approached by Villanueva. Seconds later, Coronel began to stand with a T-shirt covering his right hand. 

Officials say Villanueva recalls Coronel holding his hand up in the direction of the deputy. That's when Villanueva fired his weapon fearing for his life, they said. 

NBC 7 has spoken with a witness who saw Coronel hiding from the authorities. He describes the suspect as laying on the ground, on his stomach prior to the shooting. 

Lt. Kenn Nelson said investigators have taken that witness' statement but that it does not match the preliminary evidence and the deputies' statements. 

Deputy Villanueva has been involved in two fatal shootings in the one year he’s been employed by the department.

On Aug. 11, 2016, Villanueva was one of two deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Sergio Weick, 33. In this incident, Weick, a known gang member, was unarmed at the time of his death. 

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office ruled the Weick shooting justified.

After Villanueva was cleared, he resumed his duties as a deputy. Now, Villanueva is under investigation once again, this time for Coronel's death. 

Before his shift that day, Villanueva had been briefed on Coronel and was told he was known to be armed and had made previous threats to kill law enforcement officers, according to Nelson.

The deputy fired 16 rounds. He did reload but he did not fire after reloading.

Coronel was struck multiple times, Nelson said.

Nelson would not release the location of the gunshot wounds Coronel suffered until the medical examiner’s office finalized the autopsy report.

Nelson said there is no personal body cam video available for the Coronel shooting.

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