PLEASANTVILLE - Azalea Perez did not realize her son was dead when she first set eyes on him after he had been shot by Pleasantville police officers.
"When I came outside and I saw him laying on the floor, I thought he only got a simple shot. I didn't think they would kill him," she said in an interview at her home Tuesday. "I was running to come down the steps and (police) told me to get back into the house. And I saw the paramedics coming, and they (gestured) like 'we can't do anything.'"
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office is continuing to investigate Monday evening's fatal shooting of Alexis Yamil Perez, 19, which involved three police officers.
Autopsy results showed that Perez died from multiple gunshot wounds, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said.
He did not release how many times he was hit or where.
Police were called to the 800 block of Park Avenue about 4:20 p.m. for a report of an armed male who was allegedly "making threats of using violence" outside his home.
One officer who arrived on the scene relayed to dispatch that Perez had a knife and a rock.
No details have been released about what happened next, but the incident ended with Perez, a man with previous run-ins with local police, being shot multiple times.
The afternoon began quietly, Azalea Perez recalled. She said when she returned home from the grocery store that afternoon, her son was sitting in his room listening to music.
While she was cooking food for her husband, Hector, her son came out to ask his parents if he could take a trip to the bank in order to pay some bills.
"And that's when everything started happening. And that's the thing. No one even knows who called the cops," Azalea Perez said.
This wasn't Perez's first confrontation with Pleasantville police, according to juvenile sentencings that are regularly released by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
He was given a one-year probation last year stemming from two incidents in which he assaulted police officers who tried to arrest him, according to two separate incidents made public last year.
But Azalea Perez said her son did nothing wrong Monday. The next thing she and her husband heard was police outside directing Perez - who is described as skinny and about 5-feet, 5-inches - to drop what was in his hands, said Azalea Perez. She said her son was standing by the mailbox in front of the house at that point.
Her husband tried to go outside, but police yelled at them to stay inside, even after they identified themselves as the parents, Azalea Perez said. The next thing she remembers seeing is a smoke bomb and her son raising his arms. She said she saw her son getting down on the ground as directed, and then she heard the shots.
"They should've talked to him first. Because when he went to put something down on the floor, and then he looked up, he put his hands up like this," said Azalea Perez, replicating the action of both arms raised by her head. "Like, you know, 'Take me. Don't shoot me. Just put the handcuffs on me."
Some of the shots hit the truck of their neighbor across the street, Hector Perez said.
"They could have just shot him in the leg. What did you have to shoot him for?" Azalea Perez said. She is struggling to understand what caused police to take her son's life.
Family friend Eglee Santiago, of Egg Harbor Township, said there had to have been another way. There are ways to disarm a person, she said, and police are trained to do so.
Police are authorized under state statute to use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
Family and friends are surprised about the incident since the neighborhood is traditionally quiet, and police rarely patrol the area. The Perez family has been at the residence for more than 20 years, and both parents were employees of Tropicana Casino Resort for about as long.
No other information has been given to the family as of Tuesday, Azalea Perez said.
Three officers were involved, McClain said, but it was not clear if all of them shot Perez, or how many rounds were fired.
Perez's prior run-ins with law enforcement took place during the last two years.
On March 26, 2011, he became combative with two Pleasantville police officers who were trying to arrest him, allegedly causing them bodily injury. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault as well as resisting arrest.
Another incident that August also involved two officers, but the release did not indicate where the incident occurred.
Perez was ordered to undergo anger-management training and attend outpatient substance abuse treatment. He also had to undergo random urine monitoring.
Azalea Perez said her son had also dropped out of school and was "in a learning school in Northfield" for a year. The reason behind that was for him to catch up to a high school curriculum level, she said.
"Like any other teenager, he doesn't like school," she said, adding that the family has never had trouble with police before.
Funeral arrangements are still being made, according to family friend Maria Diaz. A vigil for Perez is also in the works.
"We just know that we miss him," Azalea Perez said.
This is the second police-involved shooting in Atlantic County in less than five months. On Dec. 17, Derreck Mack was fatally shot by an Atlantic City police officer during a pursuit. Mack was running with a gun, and then turned on the officer, according to information presented to a grand jury. The jury found the shooting was justified, so the officer was not charged.
"I don't want to see any cops around here at all," Azalea Perez said. She said the police did not negotiate with her son, but rather were aggressive in the handling of the incident.
She said she was not able to get a good look at her son after the shooting, and he was laying outside their home for about four hours covered by two sheets.
The family is currently looking at the option of legal action and are searching for an attorney, in addition to planning a march with neighbors in front of the police station.
"They say he attacked an officer, that did not happen at all," she said. "They didn't do their job."
Family friend Walter Perez, of Pleasantville, said "I've lived here all my life….it's shocking."
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