Three Pleasantville police officers were justified when they fatally shot a man outside his home in April, a grand jury found Thursday.
“I just feel like killing somebody right now,” Alexis Yamil Perez, 19, is heard saying on the 911 tape, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said, reading from the transcript.
Perez gave his name and location on the 800 block of West Park Avenue. Then, he told the dispatcher, “You better just tell the officers to shoot me.”
But the approximately 10 officers who responded did everything they could not to shoot the man, McClain said.
While their training says not to allow anyone with a sharp-edged weapon within 21 feet of them, evidence showed Perez got within 6 feet of one of the officers “because they kept hoping he’d put the knife down,” McClain said.
When he didn’t, three officers shot a total of 10 rounds at Perez. Seven struck him in the head, neck, chest, shoulder and abdomen. He died at the scene.
Perez’s mother, Azalea Perez, previously told The Press of Atlantic City that her son was getting on the ground when he was shot and did not have a knife.
But McClain has said, “Neither commands nor chemical spray were successful in convincing Perez to surrender.”
Family friend Maria Diaz, who led several rallies against the police after the shooting, said the grand jury’s decision will not keep her from fighting.
“I have a lot of things on the table we’re doing,” she said. “But we’re not going to let it go.”
The family has a lawyer.
Diaz believes Perez called police for help — not as a “suicide by cop” — and that there was no one there for him to injure before police got there.
Perez’s parents were both home at the time, and Azalea Perez claimed to not know who called 911, although the tape has been played for the family.
Last year, Alexis Perez was put on probation for a year stemming from two incidents in which he assaulted police officers who tried to arrest him, according to juvenile sentencings released last year as part of regular reports released by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Police Chief Jose Ruiz said he is pleased with the grand jury’s decision after his officers have been portrayed as “murderers” by some.
“We know a family lost a loved one,” he said. “We feel for the family. Most of us are parents. Some of the officers that were there are also parents. We were hoping for a simpler solution.”
However, he said, the officers there that day had the police experience — and some with military experience — to make the decision that followed their training.
An expert explained that training to the grand jury today, McClain said, including explaining that a knife — just like a gun — is a deadly weapon.
“They understood what police are trained to do,” McClain said.
“I want to thank the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for leading this investigation in the professional manner in which they handled it,” Ruiz said. “I’m looking forward to putting the police officers back on the street very soon.”
There were about 10 officers on the scene that day. Four have not yet returned to work, the chief said. The others have been on administrative duty.
“It had a lasting effect on them,” Ruiz said.
A memorial remains on West Park Avenue, where Perez was shot. On Thursday, there were crosses and several fresh roses along with a blue-and-black basketball at the site.
Perez’s older brother, Hector Perez Jr., said his father routinely maintains the memorial and mows the lawn of the vacant lot. Hector declined to speak on the grand jury’s decision but said the family misses his younger brother a lot.
Neighbor Gladys Melger said her family thought the officers would be found at fault, but after hearing the ruling said she feels differently. She said she was concerned after the incident, but now feels better because the officers were not found liable.
Staff Writer Joel Landau contributed to this report.
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