Diana Walsh, Chronicle Staff Writer
Copyright 2005 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
All Rights Reserved
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (California)
Mike Walker was a "hotdog" police officer whose recklessness and zeal led him to fatally shoot the wrong man in the back, a Santa Clara County prosecutor told a jury during closing arguments in Walker's trial Tuesday.
Walker, charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of 43-year-old Rudy Cardenas, is the first state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Agent to stand trial for killing someone in the line of duty. The drug agent mistook Cardenas for a wanted parole violator during a February 2004 stakeout and then pursued him in a car chase before fatally shooting him in the back as he fled on foot.
"He seemed to want to re-enact 'Smokey and the Bandit' on the streets of San Jose," Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff told jurors who have spent the past six weeks hearing the case.
But Walker's attorney told the jury that his client was "seasoned, experienced, dedicated and committed." The 12-year law enforcement veteran believed he was pursuing a parole violator with a violent past and gang ties and who appeared to be carrying a gun the day of the shooting, defense attorney Craig Brown told the jury.
"Mike Walker wasn't a rookie cop, he was a gang expert. He could draw his own conclusions," Brown said in his closing argument, which will continue today. "It is Mike Walker's mind-set that we need to be thinking about."
The 34-year-old Walker, who spent 11 years as a Watsonville police officer and one year as a state drug agent, faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
The six men and six women on the jury are expected to begin deliberating after closing arguments conclude this afternoon.
Walker insists he was acting in self defense because he saw Cardenas point a gun at him.
Investigators did not find a gun on Cardenas, and Liroff argued that Walker's actions showed he really had never believed he was in danger. Cardenas, who was later found to have been on methamphetamine, was 30 feet away and trying to escape from Walker, Liroff said. Moreover, the agent had ample protection: a bullet-proof vest and the cover of a cement wall.
"There was no danger to Walker," said Liroff, who accused the agent of fabricating parts of his story to justify the botched shooting.
During the lengthy trial, Liroff called half a dozen witnesses, who countered individual pieces of Walker's story.
He also repeatedly played jurors a surveillance video to show the events couldn't possibly have happened in the sequence Walker said they did. The video captures the amount of time it took for Walker and an agent who was following behind him to park their cars. The time frame gives Walker just 8.6 seconds from when he parked his car to the time when he fired his first shots.
"The security video demonstrates as clear as can be that what Mr. Walker said happened, didn't happen," Liroff said.
Liroff acknowledged that Cardenas was trying to flee.
"He was afraid, and he wanted to get away, but you don't shoot people for that," he said. "Cops are trained to be professionals; this is not the old West."
December 7, 2005
Calif. officer called reckless in fatal shooting trial