A Pleasantville man armed with a knife was advancing on an officer when he was fatally shot by police last week, witnesses have told investigators, according to information released Tuesday by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Officers had already tried verbal commands and pepper spray before four of them are believed to have discharged their weapons, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said. The prosecutor previously said three officers shot the suspect.
Alexis Yamil Perez, 19, called 911 at about 4:20 p.m. April 22 and said he was in possession of a weapon and was about to commit an act of violence, McClain said in a statement. He did not indicate how long Perez was on the phone or what else was said.
The Press of Atlantic City requested a copy of the 911 tape last week, but the Prosecutor’s Office refused after the family asked that it not be made public.
But Perez's parents, Hector and Azalez Perez, denied that they wanted the tape withheld and said during a protest of the shooting Monday that their son was never a threat to the officers.
It was not immediately clear whether the Perezes' public insistence that they were not blocking the tape's release would change the prosecutor's decision. But the response to The Press’ request also indicated that, because the investigation is ongoing, the tape still could be withheld.
About 10 officers were on the scene April 22 in front of Perez’s home on West Park Avenue, McClain said. “Neither commands nor chemical spray were successful in convincing Perez to surrender.”
It is believed four officers fired a total of 10 shots, with the medical examiner finding Perez sustained seven gunshot wounds, according to the statement.
The investigation is in its early stages, McClain stressed Tuesday, but he said he decided to put out a statement “in order to address concerns raised by members of the Pleasantville community.”
A vigil outside the Perez home Monday night gave way to a short protest outside the Police Department after about 50 people drove to the station chanting, “No justice, no peace!” and “No more murders.”
Azalea Perez denied her son lunged at an officer and said he was not a threat to anyone.
It appears Perez was still on probation when he was shot, after two incidents in the past two years, both involving assaults on police officers, according to juvenile sentencings released to the media last year. At least one involved two Pleasantville police officers. A second incident did not indicate where it occurred.
McClain's office is investigating the fatal shooting, and Pleasantville police are not involved, as required under state attorney general guidelines. The office is also in the process of hiring an independent expert in ballistics, police use of force and shooting-scene reconstruction, the prosecutor said.
The same method was used in the investigation into a fatal police-involved shooting in Atlantic City in December. In that instance, a grand jury found that the veteran officer was justified in shooting Derreck Mack, 18, after he pulled a gun as police chased him through Stanley Holmes Village.
McClain said all known police and civilian witnesses have been interviewed in the Perez shooting, and his office is continuing to look for any others who may have witnessed the incident or who have relevant information.
Anyone with information regarding the matter should contact the Major Crimes Unit at 609-909-7666.
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