Junus Perry, a highly decorated officer before he left the Fresno Police Department in 2010, says he was mistreated by Chief Jerry Dyer and his administrative staff after he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder stemming from the fatal shooting of a Roosevelt High School student in April 2008.
For the first time, Perry, who received national and state awards and nearly two dozen commendations for his work as a campus officer, describes what he says are efforts by top officials in the department to work against him after he sought a medical discharge.
A deputy chief says the department won’t discuss Perry’s tenure because it’s a personnel matter, but says he was personally surprised to hear Perry’s complaints.
Perry’s life changed when he sustained a severe neck injury after Roosevelt High School student Jesus “Jesse” Carrizales sneaked up behind him and hit him on the head with a wooden baseball bat, knocking Perry to the ground. As the youth was poised to strike again, Perry shot the 17-year-old special education student, who was classified as emotionally disturbed, in self-defense, police said.
Perry sued the Fresno Unified School District, contending it was negligent for failing to warn him about Carrizales’ “psychological and emotional profile and propensities.” In 2013, Perry reached a $230,000 settlement with Fresno Unified. But he said most of the money went to pay bills, his attorney, and family and friends who loaned him money.
I felt abandoned by them.
Former Fresno police officer Junus Perry
Perry says that before he reached the settlement with the school district, he endured a protracted, bitter fight with the Police Department and the city to get a medical discharge. He says that by the time he received the discharge in 2010, he had lost his home, gotten divorced and ended up seeking welfare assistance.
“I remember standing in line at the welfare office and a man asked me, ‘Hey, aren’t you Officer Perry? What are you doing here?’
“It was a humbling and humiliating experience,” Perry says. “It was also painful and upsetting because I was a single father with kids to feed.”
Perry says welfare officials told him “we can’t accommodate you because technically you are still employed with the Fresno Police Department.” Perry says he then “walked outside and sat in my car dejected and cried. I had no idea how I was going to feed my children.”
Perry, who is African American, declines to say whether Dyer singled him out.
“I don’t have any idea about his thought process,” Perry says.
But Perry says a doctor hired by the city to examine him after the fatal shooting told him that he needed a low-level detective position. He says Dyer ignored the doctor’s recommendation and wanted instead to put him in the high-profile homicide or sex crimes units. Dyer also wanted Perry to speak at a church and tell the congregants everything was fine with him, he says. The chief even suggested that Perry return to Roosevelt High, he says.
Perry says he told Dyer and his administrative staff that “I wasn’t well and I needed time to heal.”
As far as I know, the department did not mistreat him. I believe we treated him the way we treat all of our employees.
Fresno Deputy Police Chief Robert Nevarez
Perry says he didn’t think asking for a low-level job “was asking for anything unusual.” But Perry says Dyer’s administrative staff members told him they could not accommodate an officer based on a doctor’s report. The department, however, has accommodated other officers involved in police shootings, Perry says. Those officers were white, Perry says.
Perry believes his lawsuit against Fresno Unified made him an outcast. Because Fresno Unified pays hefty sums to have police officers on school campuses, Perry says he felt pressure to drop his suit.
Perry now sells commercial real estate in Fresno. But he says he keeps a binder of key documents in case another officer needs it.
“I felt abandoned by them,” he says. “They never gave me the opportunity to get better. In fact, they made it worse.”
Deputy Police Chief Robert Nevarez, speaking on behalf of Dyer, says he was surprised to hear Perry’s complaints.
“It’s the first I have heard of it,” the deputy chief says, noting that he could not comment on confidential personnel matters regarding Perry.
Nevarez says Perry is a close friend and “a really good officer” who left the department on good terms.
“As far as I know, the department did not mistreat him,” Nevarez says. “I believe we treated him the way we treat all of our employees.”
But Perry says that before he left the department, he wrote a formal complaint about his mistreatment that went up the chain of command to Nevarez and Dyer. He says he later met with Nevarez in person and told him that “I have no ill will toward anyone there and I choose to see the positive.”
Perry says that during the meeting, he hugged Nevarez.
“Because of my faith, I have learned to forgive,” Perry says. “Forgiveness has changed me, but it has not changed what I went through.”