A 32-year-old mentally disturbed Madera man was shot and killed in his front yard Friday night as he repeatedly swung a four-foot-long wooden shovel handle at police officers.
A cell phone video recorded by his mother from across the street shows Sergio M. Valdovinos, Jr., failing to follow commands, taking steps towards a group of waiting officers and forcefully swinging the shovel handle at least three times at police before the nearest officer fired eight rounds, striking Valdovinos several times. He died of his injuries on the way to the hospital. No officers were injured.
The officer is described as a veteran of the force and was placed on administrative leave pending investigation of the shooting.
The incident occurred about 6:45 p.m. in the 800 block of Wessmith Way near Lake Street, as officers were responding to a call from neighbors of a man, reportedly Valdovinos, breaking out the windows of a nearby parked van.
Valdovinos had also reportedly been seen wielding a machete earlier in the evening, according to police.
Records indicate police were familiar with Valdovinos, who had a history of at least 50 prior calls from the area of the Valdovinos home to police, for one incident or another.
Records also indicate Valdovinos had a lengthy arrest record which included assault, assault and battery with serious bodily harm, attempted rape, rape, burglary and multiple threats to terrorize for which he was sentenced to several years in state prison.
Dora Rangel, Valdovinos’ mother, said her son was schizophrenic and she had been attempting to get help for him for the last two years, but to no avail. She also questioned whether lesser force could have been used, and said the force used by the officer was excessive.
“This is not what the Madera Police Department (ever) wants to happen,” said Madera Police Chief Steve Frazier at a press conference held later that Friday night.
“We’ve been out there before where he’s threatening us with machetes, knives.”
Valdovinos was reportedly agitated, and in and out of his house Friday most of the evening, wearing a belt with screwdrivers and other implements on it, he said.
Frazier said Valdovinos had also previously set his own family’s garage on fire.
“Sergio began swinging the stick at our officers. The officer that was closest to him ended up firing eight rounds to defend himself from getting struck by the stick,” Frazier said
That officer did not have a Taser, Frazier said, so the opportunity for the use of non-lethal force did not present itself, as that officer was under attack.
“There are so many factors that come into play relative to that ... By the time you start pulling the trigger to the time that he falls, by the time your brain catches up with that you could have fired two or three more rounds just because you had to. Eight rounds sounds like a lot, but I don’t think that’s excessive at this point,” Frazier said.
Toxicology tests on Valdovinos are pending.
The officer-involved shooting was the second in as many weeks. Another man recently was seen driving slowly around Madera with a large knife to his own throat. The man had actually slashed his own throat, according to officers, and then got out and pointed a gun at police. He was shot once in the shoulder but is expected to recover.
A public town hall meeting will be held June 27, to answer questions and discuss the shooting incident with residents, with the time and place to be announced later.