Martinez, Calif. – A report released by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office concludes that the use of force by peace officers in 2020 against Juan Carlos Ayon Barraza in Richmond was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.
As part of a Contra Costa County protocol that investigates Officer Involved Shootings, the District Attorney’s Office conducts its own independent investigation and releases its findings in a Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident (LEIFI) report. The document summarizes the investigative report of the incident, contains a legal analysis, and concludes with a charging decision.
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton notes, “One of the primary concerns I heard from residents upon taking office in 2017 was the need for greater transparency in the criminal justice system. LEIFI investigations independently determine if there is any criminal liability in fatal incidents when law enforcement is involved.” If criminal liability does exist, the District Attorney – which represents The People of the State of California – has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a death was not justified.
The circumstances surrounding the incident involving Juan Barraza begin on April 16, 2020, at 8:00 am when the Vallejo Police Department received a call about a missing woman – who was last seen with Barraza. A family member of the missing woman confronted Barraza to ask about her whereabouts, but Barraza only replied that “Something bad” happened to the woman. He then got into his vehicle and fled the area.
Around 6:45 pm that same day, a bicyclist riding on Pinehurst Road between Moraga and Oakland saw a sedan blocking the roadway with a white van ahead of the car. As the cyclist passed the vehicles, a Hispanic male (Barraza) between the ages of 30-40 was seen dumping what appeared to be a woman’s body off the edge of the roadway. The cyclist placed a 911 call to report the body and the suspects. Oakland Police dispatched patrol vehicles and emergency medical crews to the location.
While en route, police located the van and the suspect matching the description provided by the cyclist. A chase ensued through Oakland city streets, onto the freeway and ending in the City of Richmond.
During the freeway pursuit, Barraza twice waved a firearm at officers. Once in Richmond, Barraza rammed his van into a patrol car at South 37th Street near Carlson Boulevard. One officer was hit by the van, and the other was trapped in the patrol car. Police fired on Barraza multiple times as Barraza drove his van into another police vehicle, causing severe injuries to one officer. That’s when another officer fired two rounds at the back of Barraza’s van – hitting him and fatally injuring him. Barraza was pronounced dead at the scene.
On April 17, 2020, the Contra Costa County Coroner conducted an autopsy on Barraza to determine the manner of his death. The pathologist, Dr. Ikechi Ogan concluded that Barraza died from a gunshot wound to his head and chest area. Dr. Ogan also noted that Barraza’s blood contained 360 nanograms per milliliter of benzoylecgonine, which is a product of cocaine.
In a legal analysis of the case, the District Attorney’s Office applied the applicable laws and the California District Attorney’s Uniform Crime Charging Standards to review the evidence of the incident. The concluding opinion determined the use of deadly force by the peace officers against Juan Barraza was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances.
As such, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will take no further action in this case.
The family of the victim and the Attorney General of the State of California have been notified of the Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident report – which can be viewed on the Contra Costa District Attorney’s website.