Grieving family members of a parolee-at-large who died following an officer-involved shooting Feb. 11 in Temecula are asking, “Why?”
The life of John Armes, 29, was celebrated Sunday at Live Oak Park in Fallbrook. Among those in attendance was his brother, Brandon Armes, who traveled from Massachusetts to say his goodbyes.
John, one of five brothers, had been in and out of trouble with the law since he was 15, according to Brandon, who is of the opinion that the system failed his sibling.
Brandon now wants to be his brother's "voice.”
“We just want justice for him,” he said. “It is not just about my brother, I don’t want anyone else getting shot just because these guys have a badge.”
John, a Fallbrook resident, had already served eight years in prison for a violent offense, his brother said.
More recently, he was wanted in connection with assault and battery charges in a Jan. 4, 2012 incident in North San Diego County. John was released from custody March 23, 2012 after posting $50,000 bail, according to case information provided by San Diego District Attorney’s Office Spokesman Steve Walker.
John was arrested again in April 2012, and again posted bail, according to Walker. He pleaded guilty to the initial assault charge on June 1, 2012 but failed to appear for his Sept. 18, 2012 sentencing, Walker said, which resulted in the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.
On Feb. 11—six days before his 30th birthday—John was shot at about 12:30 p.m. on Mimulus Way in Temecula by a parole agent with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The family said they have had a hard time getting information about how John ended up dead.
“He was not armed,” Brandon said. “They had enough people to detain him.”
Brandon said he believes John was Tasered before he was shot in the back three to four times.
“I just want some answers, I am not going to stop until I get some type of answer to why deadly force was used... Someone gave the orders to shoot.”
Just prior to the shooting, John had been under surveillance at a Temecula hotel, according to Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The surveillance was being conducted by a parole agent with CDCR assigned to the Fugitive Apprehension Team in San Diego, as well as other members of the Fugitive Task Force and members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, according to Patino.
“...(They) were conducting surveillance...where they believed parolee-at-large John Christopher Armes had been hiding out. Armes was believed to be armed,” Patino said.
“The fugitive and a woman were seen leaving as passengers in a taxi. The officers followed the taxi and at one point attempted to make a stop and arrest. Armes reportedly tried to flee and appeared to have been reaching for a weapon. Armes was shot and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital,” Patino added.
While several investigations into the officer-involved shooting are underway, CDCR is not releasing the name of the parole agent who reportedly shot John, Patino said.
Agencies looking into the circumstances of the incident are the CDCR Deadly Force Investigations Team, a team of trained CDCR investigators that conducts criminal and administrative investigations into every use of deadly force; and the Office of the Inspector General’s Bureau of Independent Review, which is responsible for oversight of CDCR’s investigations of its employees, Patino said.
Additionally, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its own investigation because the city of Temecula falls within its jurisdiction, sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa McConnell said.
“Because the investigation is still ongoing, any information about evidence or details regarding the incident will not be released at this time. Our homicide unit is working closely with the California Department of Corrections; they are conducting their own investigation,” McConnell said.
Neither agency could confirm whether Armes was found with a weapon.
Brandon said although his brother had a reputation of “running” and never should have been released on bail, the use of deadly force was still unjustified.
Alicia Pucci, Brandon’s girlfriend who also traveled from Massachusetts to attend John’s memorial service, said late Wednesday that the couple has filed a complaint with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“We understood he was on the run from cops, but we believe he was murdered by cops,” she said.
Pucci added that the woman with John the day of the shooting was about four months pregnant with his child. He also leaves behind nieces, his siblings and his parents.
“We are John’s family...We are John’s voice...His voice will shine through us,” she said.