Placerville, CA – A California judge sentenced a convicted cop killer in the United States illegally to the minimum sentence possible on Friday, prompting outrage from prosecutors and law enforcement.
An El Dorado County jury convicted 22-year-old Juan Carlos Vasquez of second-degree murder and assault with a firearm on April 13, KXTV reported.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael was killed on Oct. 23, 2019 by “two Mexican nationals” while responding to a call from a man who told 911 that somebody was stealing from his private garden, according to El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini.
Audio recordings from the 911 calls showed that dispatchers received a call from homeowner Christopher Ross who reported that someone was stealing marijuana plants from his private garden, KCRA reported.
Sheriff D’Agostini said that Deputy Ishmael and his ridealong, an off-duty San Joaquin County deputy, responded to a the call in the 4700-block of Sand Ridge Road, in the rural community of Somerset.
He said that when they arrived at the property, the deputies spoke with Ross and he told them the people in his garden were stealing.
“What he failed to report was that he had a business arrangement with the persons growing marijuana on his property,” Sheriff D’Agostini explained. “Had he been truthful with our deputies and the 911 dispatcher, this tragic event would not have occurred.”
The sheriff said that after talking to Ross, the deputies went to the rear of the home, where there was a grow of about 75 plants, and announced their presence.
“At that time, they were immediately confronted with gunfire,” Sheriff D’Agostini said.
The sheriff said that Deputy Ishmael and his ridealong both returned fire, and both were shot during the gun battle that ensued.
He said that Deputy Ishmael was shot once in upper chest above his ballistic vest and once in foot, and that he succumbed to his wounds within minutes.
Radio traffic during the gun battle reflected the desperation of the situation, KOVR reported.
“We have an officer down and we can’t get him out…” one deputy reported.
“…officer down, I need additional people up here by the pool,” another deputy told dispatch.
The off-duty San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputy was wounded in the upper thigh, according to Sheriff D’Agostini.
He was transported to the hospital, underwent surgery, and was later released.
Sheriff D’Agostini said authorities set up a perimeter at the scene and SWAT officers apprehended two individuals near the garden site.
Vasquez was also wounded by gunfire during the incident.
He was transported to the hospital and underwent surgery for his gunshot wounds.
The sheriff said Vasquez would be charged upon his release from the hospital.
He said police also arrested Mexican national Romiro Morales and booked him on charges of aiding in the commission of a felony.
Sheriff D’Agostini said the homeowner who had called 911 initially was also arrested.
The sheriff said Ross had “a business arrangement for the leasing of the land to grow the marijuana on” with the men who shot the deputies.
Ross was convicted of felony voluntary manslaughter and possession of marijuana for sale by the same jury that convicted Vasquez, KXTV reported.
Morales was convicted of being an accessory after the fact.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon Lueras sentenced Vasquez to 15 years to life in prison, the statutory minimum sentence for the charges of which he was convicted, on May 16, the Sacramento Bee reported.
When she sentenced Vasquez, Lueras struck three gun enhancements against him that the jury had found true when they rendered his guilty verdict in April.
The judge said that Vasquez’s crimes were mostly situational and said that she didn’t think he was as significant danger to the public, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Lueras pointed out mitigating factors that included the fact Vasquez was only 20 years old when he murdered Deputy Ishmael and that Ross had deceived him.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson blasted the judge’s decision in a three-page statement released on Monday, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Pierson said recently-passed legislation had “eroded” accountability for violent crimes.
“It no longer matters whether you use a gun or how many people you harm or how many prior violent felonies you have committed,” the prosecutor’s statement read.
He said the judge shouldn’t have taken Vasquez’s age into account at sentencing because it would be considered for parole purposes later, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The prosecutor also said the Vasquez had never expressed remorse for the murder of Deputy Ishmael.
The judge sentenced Vasquez to five additional years for wounding San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Tasabia and shooting at two other El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies, the Sacramento Bee reported.
But Lueras ordered that sentence to run concurrently with the other sentences, meaning that he won’t face any extra prison time.