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Criminal Justice

Man Convicted Of Assaulting Long Beach Police Officer Will Be Released From Prison After Officer Accused Of Lying 

A Long Beach Police Department patrol car has the city seal on the driver's door.
The L.A. County D.A.'s office says prosecutors no longer have confidence in testimony by Long Beach Police Officer Dedier Reyes that was used to convict a man in his assault.
(LAist)
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A man convicted in 2011 of assaulting a Long Beach police officer and sentenced to 39 years in prison will be released after the same officer, who testified against him, is facing perjury charges in a separate case.

Miguel Vargas, 34, was convicted of assaulting a peace officer and possession of a firearm in an incident that took place in the evening of Oct. 16, 2010. Officer Dedier Reyes, who shot and wounded Vargas, said that Vargas ran from police, ignored orders, and grabbed for a handgun. He testified that Vargas assaulted him with a gun.

Reyes was not harmed in the incident.

Reyes now faces criminal charges in an unrelated case from 2018 where he’s accused of lying and filing a false report involving the recovery of a handgun that prosecutors say led to the arrest of a wrong person. He pleaded not guilty earlier this year and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in September.

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The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said Thursday that Vargas’s assault conviction had been vacated by the court and that he will be placed on a year of community supervision and enter a 6-month reentry program.

“This officer is the only witness to the crime that resulted in Mr. Vargas being sentenced to 39 years in prison. The jury relied on the credibility of this officer. As a result of the pending charges against Reyes and concern that there may have been procedural errors that occurred at trial, we are unable to maintain confidence in the integrity of the assault conviction,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

A 2012 report from then-District Attorney Steve Cooley justified the police shooting, saying Reyes and fellow Officer Rudy Garcia "acted in lawful self-defense."

That report also said the officers had been called to the scene on reports of an armed woman in the area. Officers who responded described several house parties in the area but no sign of the armed woman. Vargas, who was on parole at the time, allegedly ran when he saw uniformed officers in the alley.

The account given to D.A. investigators at the time — which prosecutors now say they don't have confidence in — reads:

Reyes was fifteen feet from Vargas when Vargas removed a handgun from his front waistband with his right hand. Reyes stopped running and yelled "Gun" to his partner. Reyes pointed his handgun at Vargas as Vargas turned back towards him with the gun. Reyes and Garcia fired twice as Vargas turned with the gun.

After first placing Reyes on paid leave, Long Beach police officials have since said he has been fired.

The Long Beach Post has reported that "court records show that Reyes since at least 2014 has been the subject of multiple complaints, including 14 use-of-force investigations and 11 citizen complaints."

Vargas’s attorney Matthew Kaestner had filed a petition in May to vacate Vargas’s sentence based on charges against Reyes. He said his client’s case raises questions about other cases involving Reyes.

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“Hopefully, any attention this matter gets, it might lead to some other people [asking], ‘Hey, was that the officer that testified against my loved one?’” Kaestner said.

The District Attorney's Office and Long Beach Prosecutor’s Office said they're reviewing cases that involved Reyes.

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