A man who is serving time in prison for assaulting a Long Beach police officer is petitioning to be released from custody after the officer was charged last year with lying in a different case.
The case is the latest to possibly be compromised after Long Beach Police officers Dedier Reyes and David Salcedo, 28, were both charged in December with felonies for allegedly lying about the manner in which they recovered a gun in a 2018 arrest.
The incident led to the wrong person being arrested and briefly jailed, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case.
Now, a lawyer for Miguel Vargas, who is currently serving a 39-year prison sentence based on Reyes’ testimony in a separate case, is petitioning for his release, stating that the officer’s credibility is in question.
On the night of Oct. 16, 2010, Reyes was on patrol with his partner in the area of 10th Street and Cerritos Avenue in Long Beach when they encountered Vargas.
Vargas fled from the officers into a nearby alley, where he threw a gun he was holding, said his lawyer Matt Kaestner. Reyes, however, testified that Vargas still had the gun in his hand and that he feared for his life when he fired two shots, hitting Vargas in the back. As Vargas hit the ground, Reyes’ partner also fired two shots, hitting him in the back, Kaestner added.
The gun was found in a nearby yard, 25 feet from where Vargas was running, Kaestner said. Vargas, who recovered from his shooting injuries, was convicted of assaulting a police officer and is currently serving his 16th year of a 39-year sentence, he said.
Kaestner said the conviction was based almost entirely on the jury’s belief that Reyes provided honest testimony, but that credibility has now come into question in light of the criminal charges against Reyes.
“Essentially, this kid is serving a 39-year sentence for running from the cops and throwing a gun,” Kaestner said. “That’s a miscarriage of justice.”
Kaestner has filed a writ of habeas corpus for Vargas to be released from prison. The case is expected to go before a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge later this month.
The fallout from the criminal charges against Reyes and Salcedo has now spread to multiple cases.
In March, the city of Long Beach agreed to pay $499,800 to settle a police brutality lawsuit involving Reyes in an unrelated incident in which he allegedly injured Christopher Williams, a bus driver from Lomita, while detaining Williams in an incident outside a Pine Avenue bar in March 2018.
Williams filed a lawsuit against the city in 2019. In December, a judge issued a sanction against the city for failing to disclose to Williams’ lawyer that Reyes was the subject of an internal affairs probe and criminal investigation.
Williams’ lawyer said she only learned of the investigations after the criminal charges were filed against Reyes in December, despite years of requests for his personnel records.
Kaestner said he’s working to request more background information on Reyes, a 16-year veteran who was the subject of multiple complaints over the years.
The Long Beach Police Department in a statement Friday confirmed that Reyes has been terminated from his job with the city. The department declined to comment on Vargas’ case.
Kaestner said Reyes had 16 complaints on his record at the time of the incident with Vargas in 2010, though he had only been on the force for a handful of years.
“In my 36 years (as a lawyer), I have never seen that many,” he said.
The criminal charges could also compromise a trove of misdemeanors, as Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert is reviewing hundreds of cases connected to Reyes or Salcedo. Haubert in March said his office had so far dismissed eight cases that were set for trial because the officers will not be available to testify.
Reyes and Salcedo are both due back in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 25.
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