Videos of fatal deputy-involved Whitewater shooting released
CABAZON, Calif. — Officials in Riverside County today released additional information regarding a fatal deputy-involved shooting that happened in the unincorporated Whitewater Cutoff area of Riverside County along I-10 last month, on Friday morning, April 9. The deadly shooting happened after a tire iron-wielding man who was vandalizing vehicles charged at a K-9 Handler who had responded to the scene.
The fatal encounter, which was captured on a deputy’s body-worn camera as well as a citizen’s cell phone, led to the hours-long closure of the interstate and caused significant delays in travel times for area residents and commuters.
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Cabazon Sheriff Station deputies received a vandalism call for service around 8:45 a.m., Riverside Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Sergeant Lionel Murphy said the day of the deadly incident.
Responding deputies received information that the suspect had intentionally broken the driver side window of a passing vehicle as it traveled on Whitewater Cutoff east of Whitewater Canyon Road and north of Interstate 10, according to the Sergeant; who said California Highway Patrol also responded due to the proximity of the nearby Interstate.
Body-worn camera footage captured by the sole-deputy at the scene of last April’s deadly shooting showed the tire iron-wielding man managed to close the distance to a mere few feet before the deputy opened fire on him, ending the threat. Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Critical Incident Review video screenshot
In a Critical Incident Review regarding the shooting (which can be viewed in its entirety below), Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco today explained that a deputy who happened to be in the area was the first to spot and attempt to contact a man, who has since been identified as Gabriel Munoz Jr., 40, of Cathedral City.
When the deputy arrived he witnessed Munoz using a tire iron and other objects to cause significant damage to a vehicle parked on Tipton Road, which parallels the north side of Interstate 10, according to Bianco.
The deputy then used his marked patrol vehicle’s Public Address system to hail Munoz, saying, “Sir, I need you to drop the items, throw ’em on the ground”
Ignoring, or possibly not hearing the deputy due to motorists passing along the interstate, Munoz then walked south toward the freeway across the freeway off-ramp at Tipton Road, before crossing the four westbound lanes of the freeway into the center divider.
“Fearing Munoz would be hit by a car, the deputy drove down the off-ramp into oncoming traffic of the westbound lanes of the freeway, in an attempt to stop the traffic using his overhead lights,” Bianco explained. He then scaled the guardrail separating the lanes of traffic and appeared as if he intended to cross the eastbound lanes.
“Seeing the deputy, Munoz returned to the center divider and began walking toward the deputy, who was stopped in his vehicle in the westbound lanes,” the Sheriff continued.
Body-worn camera footage released in today’s review showed that the deputy and sole law enforcement official at the scene then exited his vehicle – just as Munoz began walking directly toward him with a large white object that officials have since described as a tire iron.
The footage showed the deputy immediately yelled, “Don’t come closer,” at least four times, before radioing emergency dispatchers and advising, “I got one at gunpoint, he’s coming at me. I got nothing else other than my gun.”
Despite the deputy’s commands, Munoz refused to drop the weapon and continued to advance toward the deputy.
Cell phone footage captured by a bystander and witness to last April’s shooting showed the moment a deputy opened fire on 40-year-old, Gabriel Munoz Jr., of Cathedral City. The recording showed the deputy opened fire just as Munoz switched a tire iron from his left hand to his right, before raising the weapon in a threatening manner. Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Critical Incident Review video screenshot
Munoz then crossed the guardrail with the tire iron still in his left hand directly in front of the deputy – forcing him to continue walking backwards and into the westbound traffic lanes – at which time the deputy clearly, calmly, and loudly warned, “”Sir, I’m going to shoot you! I’m gonna shoot you! Drop it!”
“As he neared the deputy, Munoz switched the tire iron to his right hand and began to raise it,” Bianco explained; saying, “At that time, a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
“The suspect was hit by the gunfire and despite life-saving measures performed by the deputies on scene and AMR, he was pronounced deceased,” the Sheriff continued.
Audio of the deputy’s camera indicated the law enforcement officer fired six rounds at Munoz, ending the threat.
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“The guy was acting crazy. He wouldn’t listen to what (the deputy) was saying to him,” a woman who identified herself as “Sandy” told RCNS shortly after the shooting.
“I hate that the man was killed over something seemingly so small, but I don’t think there was anything else (the deputy) could have done under the circumstances,” Sandy continued.
“I’m just glad (the deputy) was there to ensure the safety of the public,” she added.
According to Bianco, investigators from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office is leading this investigation, aided by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Force Investigations Detail and their investigation is active and ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact District Attorney Investigator Moreno at (951) 955-5506 or Riverside Sheriff Investigator Moody at (951) 955-2777. Callers can refer to incident file number B210990002 and can remain anonymous.
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Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).
Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.