A while back, a reader asked my opinion on the Santa Maria PD shooting involving an on-duty officer who was also the suspect in a sex with a minor case. The incident occurred at the end of January of this year. For more specific details, check out policeone.com or lawofficer.com.
The gist of the incident is that Ofr. Covarrubias was suspected of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female who, perhaps not so coincidentally, was also in the Santa Maria PD Explorer program. Both Covarrubias and the girl were assigned to a DUI enforcement night.
A lieutenant with Santa Maria PD was told the Explorer would be called away during the DUI enforcement to make a “pretext call”. For some reason, the commanding officer of the enforcement night told all the officers present that she would be called away for an investigation. Covarrubias was present.
The long and short of it is that they attempted to bring Covarrubias into custody during the DUI night. At some point, he drew his weapon, fired four shots (reportedly at nothing in particular) and then pointed his weapon at his friend, fellow officer, and recent best man forcing his friend to shoot him.
Investigations would later reveal that Covarrubias had texted that he’d rather die than go to jail.
Now, let me be clear, I know nothing more about this incident than what I’ve read on the above links. so my opinion is based on nothing more. I have no direct knowledge of the investigation or any parties involved.
That being said, it seems like there are all kinds of questions that need to be asked. I can’t help but wonder if the lieutenant mentioned in the column and the commanding officer were one and the same. If that is the case, how could that lieutenant not know who was present at the DUI enforcement and who was the target of the pretext call being made.
It is unfortunate, but not all that uncommon, that in a larger agency, the left hand may not know what the right hand is doing. I understand the occasional need for secrecy, especially considering the nature of both the crime in question and the suspect, but wouldn’t that fall on the heads of those leading that organization and/or division? Who knows if that was the case here, but it certainly has me wondering.
Secondly, who made the call to do all this in conjunction with a DUI enforcement? Those are dangerous enough as it is. Adding multiple levels of investigation that have nothing to do with DUI enforcement only adds to the danger.
And what of the poor officer that shot and killed his friend? That poor guy had nothing to do with any of this. The way the columns read, it seems to me that Covarrubias put his friend in the worst possible place and forced him to shoot. What a terrible burden for his friend to carry for the rest of his life…and I don’t think the man had a choice. It seems clear to me (again based on what I’ve read) that Covarrubias was determined to commit suicide by cop.
And by the way, why wasn’t Covarrubias wearing a vest? According to reports, he was shot in the chest and died from his wounds.
I’m sure this investigation is nowhere near over and lawsuits a-plenty will be filed. The responsibility lies somewhere and I’m glad it isn’t up to me to wade through it. Situations like this will divide a department, destroy families, and may result in years of drawn out litigation.
The forseeable future is bleak for Santa Maria PD. There is sure to be plenty of finger-pointing, blaming, and scrutiny like they’ve never experienced before. All I can do is pray for the officers in that jurisdiction to find their way clear to continue to fight the good fight and uphold the law as they swore to do.
I wish them good luck and God speed.
Image courtesy of Flickr and Navymailman