A Fresno police shooting death that has received more attention in the era of George Floyd is on the Fresno City Council’s agenda this week.
The 2017 shooting of 16-year old Isiah Murrietta-Golding as he ran away from police officers rankled social justice advocates then and now. With the renewed interest in police accountability, Murrietta-Golding’s case has been a focus during recent protests in Fresno.
Also in Politics 101:
- The attorney representing dead teen’s father expects the case to go to trial.
- Race for community college board heats up.
The council will discuss his case in closed session at its Thursday meeting.
Attorney Expects Lawsuit to Go to Trial
Murrietta-Golding and his brother were suspects in the homicide of Eugenio “Henie” Ybarra in April 2017. When police made a stop of a car that Murrietta-Golding was in, he ran into a yard of a nearby day care center. The center was closed because it was a Saturday. Video released last year appears to show Sgt. Ray Villalvazo shoot between the slats of a fence. Murrietta-Golding, who was struck in the back and later died from his injuries, did not have a firearm on him.
His parents filed a wrongful death suit against the city, Villalvazo and then-police chief (and now mayor-elect) Jerry Dyer.
“The city continues to claim that the officer feared for his life and was justified in shooting Isiah as he ran away. Unless the City is willing to accept the obvious fact that Isiah did not pose a threat, I expect the case to go to trial as scheduled.” — Attorney Stuart Chandler
The case is scheduled to return to federal court in August for a settlement conference, which is why the attorneys for Murrietta-Golding’s parents think the council is discussing it this week.
“The city continues to claim that the officer feared for his life and was justified in shooting Isiah as he ran away. Unless the City is willing to accept the obvious fact that Isiah did not pose a threat, I expect the case to go to trial as scheduled,” said attorney Stuart Chandler, representing Murrietta-Golding’s father Anthony Golding.
Murrietta-Golding’s brother is serving time in a juvenile facility for his role in Ybarra’s death.
“On behalf of Isiah’s mother, we are looking forward to the trial of this tragic case in the Fall. This shooting of a small, 16-year-old boy running away is as bad as any video-recorded police shooting we have seen anywhere,” said Michael Haddad, attorney for Murrietta-Golding’s mother Christina Pauline Lopez.
Even though both parents are represented by different attorneys, there is just one case. The trial is expected to start Oct. 27.
The city, through Mayor Lee Brand’s spokesman, says they don’t comment on pending litigation.
Incumbent Gets Third Challenger in Race for College Board Seat
One of the more interesting local races in November is shaping up to be the contest for the community college trustee seat held by Eric Payne.
Payne’s conduct as a candidate and a board member has repeatedly come under scrutiny. Now, he faces a challenge not only from the more conservative Sevag Tatetosian, but also progressive Nasreen Johnson, who has now filed to run.
“A strong community college system is vital to our student’s ability to gain skills needed to support our local economy,” Johnson said via text message. “As a first-generation college student who attended Fresno City College before earning my Business Management degree and Master’s degree in Business Administration, I know the important path community colleges provide for students to reach their goals. I’m excited to bring my experience to this role and represent the voters in our community.”
Johnson is a communications executive with the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and has run for office twice in the last two years. She finished second in 2018 against Terry Slatic for a seat on the Fresno Unified school board. In 2019, she lost a special election for Fresno County supervisor to Steve Brandau.[Correction, 7/14/2020: in the original version of this story, it said Johnson lost to Brandau in 2020. It was 2019.]
Opponents Respond to New Entrant
Tatetosian, who works as an analyst with the Fresno Count Department of Public Health, questioned Johnson’s motivation for seeking the seat.
“The demands of State Center are serious, especially in the midst of COVID-19. They’re different than Fresno Unified’s school board or the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. I’m committed to serving the community and students of State Center, not shop for another political office,” Tateosian said by text.
Meanwhile, Payne, executive director of the Central Valley Urban Institute, says he has earned a third term.
“My focus has and continues to be our students success, to ensure they have all the resources they need to make it through this horrible pandemic,” Payne said, also via text message. “I’m fully committed to the development and completion of our Multi-Million dollar Campus in West Fresno and our bond Implementation.
“I wish all of my opponents nothing but the best and civility, ” Payne said. “But they are not my focus right now. I’m honored to serve the students and families of Trustee Area 2 because we have accomplished a lot together and I look forward to our continued journey of lifting each other up in a time of crisis, we’re in this together.”
This will be the first election for Payne since the state’s agency for campaign finance fined him more than $50,000 for several improprieties.
The Area 2 seat covers parts of north Fresno, as well as the western part of the city, and a large expanse of western Fresno County, including the entire city of Kerman.