For release on September 10, 2014   CONTACT:
James Leonard, Supervising Deputy District Attorney
(408) 792-2574
DA REPORT: COUNTY PEACE OFFICERS LAWFULLY SHOT AND KILLED THREATENING DRUG DEALER   Six Santa Clara County peace officers lawfully shot and killed a drug dealer during an undercover buy operation in Sunnyvale last year, a District Attorney's review has concluded.   The agitated felon, sitting in a truck, told the undercover officer that he had a gun, and then abruptly reached for something. Juan Ruelas did not have a weapon. However numerous officers – who had been briefed that the dealer had multiple guns and had threatened people with them – thought that he did. The 34-year-old Sunnyvale resident was fatally shot by the officers.
  Wrote James Leonard, the supervising deputy district attorney who authored the D.A.’s report on the shooting: “The fact that Ruelas was not armed with a firearm at the time of the shooting does not negate a legal justification for the shooting as long as officers honestly believed he posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to them or others.”
  The District Attorney’s Office investigates all fatal law enforcement encounters to determine if the lethal force was legal.
  The fatality happened during a September 4, 2013 arrest operation organized after Ruelas had sold methamphetamine five times before to an undercover officer. During this operation, undercover Detective Travis Niesen was set to buy a pound of methamphetamine from Ruelas for $10,000. The plan was that officers, listening in on a hidden body transmitter, would then arrest Ruelas. The officers were wary as an informant had told them that Ruelas had weapons. Meeting at a restaurant parking lot at 2 p.m., the dealer, still sitting in his truck, handed over the drugs. The officer gave the coded arrest signal and then stalled, waiting for the officers to take the suspect into custody. An openly agitated Ruelas told the officer, “I got a gun, don’t do anything stupid.” Hoping the arrest team would hear, the undercover detective said, “Dude, why did you bring a gun?”   Ruelas reached with his left hand toward his waist. Fearing that he was about to be shot, the officer pulled his gun and fired. Reacting to what they thought was now a close-range gunfight, Santa Clara Police Sgt. Greg Hill, Santa Clara Police Detectives Cory Morgan, Justin Mead and Jake Thompson, and Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff Tyler Fernandes all quickly converged on the van. They fired their weapons at Ruelas, striking him 29 times. An autopsy showed Ruelas was intoxicated on amphetamine and methamphetamine at the time.
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