Visalia's police chief defends the fatal shooting of a drug dealer who was under surveillance, and the trial of a Reedley baby sitter accused of murdering a toddler ends in a hung jury.
Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers at fresnobee.com.
Cop shoots dealer
What happened: A 22-year-old man who was shot five times and killed by Visalia police was a drug dealer who was under surveillance and who became aggressive after police surrounded his car during a traffic stop, Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas said Monday. When Armando Santibanez, 22, of Visalia, was pulled over by police, he rolled up his car window and gunned the engine of his rented BMW, causing the car to lunge, Mestas said. Officers yelled at him to stop moving his hands, but he didn't respond and appeared to be reaching for something, she said.
What it means: The Tulare County Sheriff's Department is investigating the officer-involved shooting at the request of Visalia police. Mestas said the unnamed officer, who is on paid leave, did the right thing.
What readers said:
"Shot five times in the chest WOW, I'm not saying the young man was an angel something tell me this could have been doubt with in another safe and human like manner. I understand shoot to kill if someone is pointing a gun on you, I understand shoot to kill if your life was threaten in such a way that KILLING is the last resort, BUT "Put your hands up if not I'm going to KILL you", might not be the answer... "
-- Miguel Delgado
"A man has only two hands, sometimes only one I suppose, but if he isn't showing you both of them you have to assume the one you can't see has a weapon in it. That's the only way to stay alive in this career. Santibanez had the opportunity to show his hands and he didn't. Lethal force is justified in this scenario."
Hung jury declared
What happened: Reedley baby sitter Megan Martzen, whose trial for the death of a toddler ended Thursday with a hung jury, may have to go through a second murder and child abuse trial. Prosecutor Jeff Dupras said that his office will retry the case. A Fresno County jury of seven women and five men could not reach a unanimous verdict on the two charges that Martzen faced in the death of 17-month-old Ella VanLeeuwen. Defense attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt told reporters that one juror said the prosecution's case was like "Swiss cheese -- it had a lot of holes in it."
What it means: A March 7 status hearing was set, at which more information may be provided about prosecutors' plans for the case. Fresno attorney Gerald Schwab Jr., who was not part of Martzen's defense team but observed testimony in the four-week trial, said prosecutors should seek a plea agreement that gives them a felony conviction but allows Martzen to be sentenced to probation.
What readers said:
"As one of the jurors in this case, I experienced first hand, the reason for our American judicial system. It was developed and implimented for such a time as this. A fair trial can only happen when 12 impartial people are brought together to listen to both sides. Only then, based only on the evidence provided, we made a decision withought bias or conjecture. This was a dificult case to hear, for all of us. Bottom line is, without evidence, there was no way to vote guilty, according to the law! The blame should go to the sloppy police work in this case. Either there was no evidence collected...or there was no evidence to collect!"
"Thats the face and smirk of someone who knows they just got away with murder."
"Not a smirk. Just a person who is trying to walk down a hall with cameras focused on her while people like you critique every facial twitch. I wonder how you would do while falsely accused in the public eye."
Catching Up is compiled by Bee editors. Go to fresnobee.com/catchingup/ to comment or learn more about these stories.