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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Family and protesters look for answers Family and protesters look for answers (April 03, 2002)

Police chief calls for patience in multi-agency investigation

by Geoff S. Fein

Parents and friends of Pedro Calderon, the 20-year-old burglary suspect shot and killed by a police officer near Stanford on March 20, marched from East Palo Alto to Palo Alto City Hall seeking answers.

About 80 protesters walked along University Avenue from Bell Street Park in East Palo Alto Friday, while police officers from East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Mountain View prepared for the marchers. Sheriff's deputies in an unmarked Ford Expedition drove by the marchers and a California Highway Patrol helicopter circled overhead.

At 3:30 p.m., about 30 minutes before the march was to begin, marchers were told they would have to reroute their protest because they did not have a permit from either East Palo Alto or Palo Alto.

Sgt. Jeff Justus, an East Palo Alto motorcycle officer, told Marilu Serrano, one of the march's organizers, protesters would have to take a different route to Palo Alto City Hall. The original plan was to march up University Avenue to Bryant Street, and then to the plaza in front of City Hall.

Justus said the new route would take the protesters south on University Avenue to Middlefield Road east to Forest Avenue and south toward City Hall.

"That's the only way it will be able to happen," Justus said.

Although confused at the change in routes, the protester agreed to the police department's terms.

Most of the 80 protesters, who walked two miles from Bell Street Park to Palo Alto City Hall, wore white T-shirts emblazoned with Calderon's picture. Almost everyone carried a hand-drawn sign with a particular message: "Y couldn't you just mace"; "Stop false incrimination"; "Don't judge people with red shoes"; "Cops killed my friend"; "CK cops kill"; "Too late 2 say sorry"; "Stop racism vs minorities;" and "Justice for Pete."

Although the crowd was far smaller than expected, it still showed the outpouring of emotion from the community, several protesters said.

"(Pedro) was a really nice kid," Serrano said. "If you have 500 (people) coming to (his) wake, that speaks for him and for his family."

Serrano also expressed a sentiment shared by many of Calderon's friends, that you "cannot construe from one arrest a criminal record."

Meanwhile back at Palo Alto City Hall, a regional Special Weapons and Tactic (SWAT) team from Mountain View was on alert in case the protest got out of hand.

Lt. Dennis Burns, who heads up Palo Alto's SWAT team, said the police department had information that 400 to 500 protestors were expected.

"We didn't know to what extent they'd be friendly or hostile," he said.

However, shortly before the marchers arrived at City Hall, the SWAT team gathered up their gear and left the scene.

As the group marched up University Avenue chanting "we want justice," drivers honked their cars horns in a show of support. When the group reached Palo Alto City Hall at 5:40 p.m. they marched around the plaza and shouted, "We want answers."

While the protesters chanted and held their signs above their heads, the parents and family of Pedro Calderon stood a silent vigil in front of City Hall.

Palo Alto Police Chief Pat Dwyer broke the department's silence and issued a statement Thursday about the shooting.

He said police are aware of the Calderon family's concerns, "as well as the broader community," about the incident. "We are also aware of our responsibility to be accountable to the community we serve and to communicate in an open and timely manner.

"We would like our community to remember, however, that complex investigations of incidents like this take time and must be conducted in a timely manner consistent with the law and sound investigative practices. It is inappropriate, and potentially harmful, to make speculative responses before all the facts are known."

Dwyer said the criminal investigation of the shooting is being done by the detective division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department. This investigation will be presented to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and the county Grand Jury for independent review.

A separate "administrative investigation," he said, is being conducted by the Palo Alto Police Department, "to evaluate the incident in terms of department policy and procedures."

The findings of both investigations, he said, will be made public when they are finished.

"The Palo Alto Police Department has a history of conducting fair, impartial investigations of incidents that involve our officers. This event will be handled according to the same standard," Dwyer said.

Lt. Burns said Calderon's parents met with Dwyer during the protest rally.

Yolanda Sepulveda, a family friend, said there are no words that can express the community's feeling.

"It's very difficult," she said. "We just want answers."

The group marched around the square block of City Hall causing traffic to slow as drivers stopped to watch. Along Hamilton Avenue, several protesters pointed at Palo Alto police officers and shouted out, "You killed Pete."

Like a wagon train circling to fend off an attack, police officers on motorcycles drove around the block keeping an eye on the protesters. The only incident occurred when two bicyclists began questioning protesters over the shooting incident. A woman clad in bicycle-racing attire told several protesters that Pedro was not the good kid protesters were trying to make him out to be.

The crowd eventually made its way into the middle of Forest Avenue between City Hall and the Downtown library. The noise from the protesters led library staff to close the facility's doors.

In the end, the marchers got to take their protest onto University Avenue as they headed back toward East Palo Alto.

Calderon was pulled over by a Palo Alto officer and a Stanford officer after he was identified by a Stanford community services officer as a possible car burglar. Calderon was behind the wheel of a BMW.

The incident, which occurred at Stanford Avenue and Raimundo Way on the Stanford campus, turned violent when Calderon apparently pinned Palo Alto Police Officer Jessica Perryman against her own car with his auto. It is unknown whether Perryman or Stanford Police deputy Jeff Bell fired the shot that killed Calderon.endbullet>

E-mail Geoff S. Fein at [email protected]


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