University Police Department (UPD) officer Felipe Lucero was involved in the fatal shooting of Fresno man Freddy Centeno in 2015. UPD hired Lucero months later with knowledge of his involvement in Centeno’s death.
Lucero was later accused of using excessive force on March 10 during an arrest on Foothill Boulevard. He was patrolling undercover with several officers near a liquor store on Foothill Boulevard. University spokesperson Matt Lazier said the group of University Police “saw a group of individuals with alcohol who appeared underage and who were suspected of theft.” Lucero approached the group and asked to see IDs.
According to Lazier, “while officers were checking the IDs, one member of the group, later identified as Aidan Dugan-Culton, became belligerent and shoved an officer.” Dugan-Culton was then physically restrained and arrested by Lucero. The encounter was filmed by Julian Trevizo and posted on Facebook. According to Trevizo’s Facebook post, Dugan-Culton did not shove the officer, but “put his arm up in defense.”
In September 2015, Lucero fatally shot Centeno. Lucero and fellow Fresno police officer Zebulon Price responded to a report of an armed disturbance after a resident said a man had knocked on her door and pointed a gun at her, according to the Fresno Bee.
Lucero and Price confronted Centeno and he pulled what looked like a handgun out of his pocket. The officers fired 10 shots, seven of which hit Centeno. The item Centeno had pulled out of his pocket was actually a painted garden hose nozzle.
According to the Fresno Bee’s coverage, Centeno was mentally ill.
Centeno was taken to the hospital and died 23 days later. Centeno’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lucero, Price and the Fresno Police Department (FPD). After the Fresno City District Attorney cleared the officers of wrongdoing, the lawsuit was refiled in federal court and is scheduled for June, according to the Tribune.
Lucero resigned from his position at the FPD March 2, 2016 and was hired at UPD that month.
According to Cal Poly Communications Specialist Cynthia Lambert, “at the time of [Lucero’s] hiring, an extensive pre-employment background investigation was completed and the university was aware of his role in an officer-involved shooting in his prior employment with Fresno Police — including that an independent review was conducted and Officer Lucero was cleared of any wrongdoing.”
In regards to the arrest made on Foothill Boulevard, Lambert said all use-of-force incidents are taken seriously. An internal investigation determined that Lucero was within policy.
“As a result, Officer Lucero remains on active duty,” Lambert said.
Lambert said Dugan-Culton “is shown on store security cameras stealing a bottle of alcohol,” and the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s officer is charging him with theft, resisting arrest and assault on an officer.
Dugan-Culton’s attorney Patrick Fisher said in an email to Mustang News that it was concerning the university hired Lucero.
“The concern is that he would pose a threat to people in our community,” Fisher said. “His assault and battery on my client, unfortunately, validates those concerns.”
Fisher also commented on the surveillance footage of Lucero shooting Centeno and the video of Dugan-Culton’s arrest.
“It shows that he has poor judgment, poor training, poor character or some combination of the three,” Fisher said. “He should not be a law enforcement officer and I fear for the safety of our community as long as he patrols our streets.”