Fuston Has Killed Before

originally published at www.pressdemocrat.com

Death was Sonoma County deputy’s second shooting case


Published: Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:22 p.m.

Officials on Friday released the name of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who shot shot a man to death June 1, saying threats against him had been ruled out or “mitigated.”

Sgt. Mark Fuston, a much-decorated veteran deputy who is a firearms instructor and heads the Sheriff’s SWAT Team, was involved in an earlier, non-fatal shooting in 2002 when he was an officer in Windsor.

In the latest incident, Fuston shot Albert Mike Leday Jr., 49, after a high speed chase that ended in Santa Rosa at the entry to the Coddingtown Mall parking lot. Leday was shot once after he refused to surrender and, investigators have said, appeared to reach behind into his waistband.

Initial reports indicated Leday was shot in the chest.

Fuston, 50, returned to work late last week, officials said.

The Sheriff’s Office has been criticized for taking over a month to release Fuston’s name. Leday’s family retained a lawyer to try and get the information released and the Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU formally requested the release of the deputy’s identity.

Sheriff’s officials had refused to release Fuston’s name because, they said, they had evidence of potential threats against him that needed to be addressed. They have refused to elaborate on those threats and on Friday again declined to detail them, saying that to do so might compromise confidential sources.

“If we expose that information we have, there’s the possibility of it getting back to the source of the information and how it’s coming to us,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Matt McCaffrey.

Some threats have been ruled out and others “mitigated” and “we feel comfortable that although there are risks, they are hopefully at this point not above and beyond the risks normally associated with the job,” McCaffrey said.

Steve Fabian, a director of the county ACLU chapter, said it was an inadequate response.

“They should explain in detail exactly what the threats were, and I think that an explanation’s owed as to why it took so long to determine, obviously, that these threats are not viable.”

Leday’s son, Justin Leday said, “I appreciate that it’s finally come out who shot my father.”

He added: “Obviously, I can’t make any judgment calls as to what was going through this officer’s mind. But to be involved in a shooting twice without a weapon, shows a lack of judgment, a lack of patience, and it seems like he shoots first and asks questions later.”

In the 2003 shooting, Fuston shot a fleeing gang member five times in the back, buttocks and legs after pulling him over. In that case, Santa Rosa and Petaluma police investigators said, Andrew Valencia turned as Fuston was chasing him, appeared to be drawing a weapon and shouted, “I have a gun, too.”

No weapon was found on Valencia, who was later sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for a gang-related shooting, but a loaded 9mm was found in his car.

Fuston was cleared of criminal wrongdoing after a seven month investigation.

The shooting of Leday was the climax to a pursuit that began at a Larkfield apartment complex to which deputies had been called by a woman who said she was fearful of her ex-boyfriend who was on the premises, and that he had earlier assaulted her.

When deputies spotted Leday in his car, he led them on a chase to Guerneville Road and West Steele Lane, where he crashed into a light pole and got out of his car. He was shot seconds later after, police and some witnesses said, he appeared to reach behind his back and pull up his waistband.

Asked whether deputies involved in more than one shooting come under extra internal scrutiny or supervision, McCaffrey said they are monitored “from the standpoint of their mental health.”

“In the end,” he said, “We’re going to review it internally, from the policy standpoint, from an employee training standpoint: Is there any thing we’re going to have to change or improve?”

The question of whether a deputy has been involved in more than one shooting is less relevant, he said.

“Each shooting has to stand on its own,” he said. “In other words, just because a deputy’s been in a previous shooting, whether he was 100 percent in the right or there were some problems with it, that doesn’t necessarily bleed over into the current shooting.

“Every round that comes out of the end of a firearm has to stand up on its own as a use of force,” he said.

The Santa Rosa Police Department, which is investigating the shooting under a countywide protocol that calls for outside agencies to evaluate officer-involved shootings, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Friday.

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