The death of a young Mexican man at the hands of a San Diego police officer has prompted the Mexican government to call for a state investigation into the shooting, consul officials said Wednesday.
Documents found on the dead man helped to identify the victim as Jose Eleazar Lopez Ballardo. Consul officials said he was from a small town near Culiacan in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Lopez's family told authorities in Sinaloa that the 24-year-old man had emigrated to the United States several years ago, and that he was a construction worker, said Lisette Atala, a spokeswoman for the Mexican consul in San Diego.
"The family said he was a good son who sent money home to his family," Atala said.
A deputy county coroner said late Wednesday that the coroner's office had not received any information from the Mexican Consulate and that the victim was still being listed as a "John Doe."
Lopez was shot and killed by Police Officer Thomas K. O'Connell in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, reportedly after he swung a cementing trowel at O'Connell. O'Connell had gone to the aid of two California Highway Patrol officers as they tried to remove the man from the freeway. The shooting occurred just south of the on-ramp to California 52 during the morning rush hour. A deputy county coroner said Lopez died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Police said Lopez ignored repeated orders to drop the trowel and suddenly lunged at the officer with the tool in his hand. O'Connell fired a few shots from his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, but police said the man kept coming at the officer, so he fired more rounds. Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene.
Nicolas Escalante Barrett, the Mexican consul in Sacramento said he was preparing letters to present to the U. S. attorney general and Gov. George Deukmejian.
Escalante said the numerous violent incidents involving Mexican citizens in San Diego and the border area are cause for concern by the Mexican government. "We hope there will be a thorough investigation. . . . We are asking them to look at the cause to see if there was any violation of rights," Escalante said.
Dave Cohen, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department, said he had not received any communication from the Mexican Consulate.
"We will be presenting the case without any recommendation to the district attorney and the district attorney will make the determination. Just because this is a Mexican citizen . . . our standard of investigation will not change. We are sensitive to the concerns of everyone in the community."
In 1989 the district attorney's office reviewed 24 cases involving use of force by the San Diego Police Department.