The Napa County District Attorney’s Office is reconsidering charging a man shot by Napa Police in May 2012 in east Napa, two years after deciding not to prosecute him “based on the totality of circumstances and the interests of justice.”
“I agreed to re-review our initial determination not to charge Mr. Contreras,” Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein said last week, referring to Alejandre Contreras, who also goes by Luis Alejandre. “I am unable to comment further on the process or details that led to the decision to re-review.”
Lieberstein said his office had received a request from Napa Police to review his decision not to prosecute Alejandre in connection with the shooting. Exactly who made the request is unclear. Police Capt. Jeff Troendly said last week that Police Chief Richard Melton had made no such request.
As of Tuesday, no new decision has been made on the case, he said. An attorney for Alejandre could not be reached for comment.
The decision not to charge Alejandre was one issue that led law enforcement unions to endorse Tom Kensok as he sought to unseat Lieberstein in the June primary election.
“I don’t believe any jury under the circumstance of what happened in that case would convict Mr. Contreras,” Lieberstein said in an interview early May. “My job, ethically, is not to file a case I can’t prove.”
Luis Alejandre filed a federal lawsuit in September 2012, four months after Officer Thomas Keener shot him in a backyard of the 2100 block of Parrish Road in Napa, alleging violation of his civil rights and negligence. Alejandre, who was not armed, survived the shooting.
Lawyers for the city of Napa and Keener asked the judge in June to postpone a hearing in this civil lawsuit from June to August, saying that the Napa County district attorney was “‘still considering the matter as it concerns the plaintiff and the defendant officer,’” according to court records. Lawyers for both parties agreed this summer to place the suit on hold while Lieberstein was reviewing the case.
The next hearing is Aug. 22. The city so far has spent about $99,000 to defend the lawsuit, according to Assistant City Attorney David C. Jones.
The Napa County District Attorney’s Office in February 2013 found Keener had committed no crime.
Alejandre, who was also hit with a flashlight during the incident , alleges in the complaint his constitutional rights were violated because the beating and shooting were unlawful, and that Keener had no probable cause to believe the plaintiff was involved in criminal activity prior to the chase beginning.
Alejandre also alleges the city failed to train its officers and command staff properly, according to the complaint. The plaintiff also claims Keener acted with malice and oppression, used excessive force and caused emotional distress.
According to the District Attorney’s February 2013 report , Keener said he began chasing Alejandre because he thought he was dumping narcotics and failed to stop when ordered to.
Keener said he caught up with Alejandre after going over four fences and they struggled. The officer said he had fallen on his back, exhausted, moments before he fired his gun once.
Alejandre was grabbing for the officer’s flashlight and his gun, according to the report. Keener believed Alejandre intended to hit him with his flashlight and take his gun to kill him, the report stated.
Alejandre, whose blood tested positive for methamphetamine, said he was walking home when he saw Keener’s patrol car. He fled because he was scared to be arrested and deported, according to the report.
He alleges he was running out of steam when Keener started hitting him on the head with a flashlight, according to the DA’s report. Alejandre grabbed the flashlight so he wouldn’t be hit anymore, according to the report.
Lieberstein is expected to win re-election in November. Kensok announced last week that he was suspending his campaign.