On November 4, 1978, Jesus Cecena executed San Diego Police Officer Archie Buggs.
On August 28, 2015, the onetime gang member has a parole hearing.
Cecena had been drinking beer and smoking PCP-laced marijuana when Buggs, a Vietnam veteran, pulled him and a fellow gang member over during a routine nighttime traffic stop in San Diego. After firing five shots at Buggs, Cecena pumped another round into the officer’s head as he lay dying in a gutter, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Now, despite his merciless slaughter of a man who dedicated his life to keeping his city’s citizens safe and secure, Cecena is asking the state to be merciful to him. This, courtesy of a new state law that makes it easier for criminals who committed heinous crimes as juveniles to be freed. (Cecena was four months shy of his 18th birthday when he murdered Buggs, who was one of a handful of black officers on the San Diego police force.)
Cecena’s case would be troubling if it stood alone. Sadly, it does not.
The state parole board freed a record 902 “lifers” this past year, far surpassing the numbers released in prior years. One of them was Voltaire Alphonse Williams, who, as we reported in a recent posting, played a central role in the brutal 1985 murder of LAPD detective Thomas Williams (no relation) in front of his six year-old son. The parole board, very quietly and without cause, freed Williams on Aug. 4, according to a detailed piece by Arnold Friedman in LA Observed. And the gang member with Cecena the night he murdered Buggs could add to the list of hardened criminals freely roaming the streets. Jose Arteaga, who was 20 at the time, likely will have a parole hearing later this year or in early 2016, according to the Times.
There is certainly room for compassion in criminal justice. But not for cop killers – no matter how difficult their childhoods were or their age when they committed the crime. There are few crimes more monstrous than murdering law enforcement officers. These killings are not just murders of individuals, they are attacks on the very foundation of our society. Law enforcement professionals – be they police or prosecutors – are on the front lines of a largely invisible but constant struggle to maintain order and protect innocent citizens against those who seek to do them harm.
To be sure, there is some cause for hope.
Last year, the parole board recommended that Cecena be freed. Gov. Jerry Brown rejected that incomprehensible suggestion, agreeing with prosecutors that Cecena remains a threat to the public and has not taken full responsibility for murdering Buggs. And a long list of current and retired law enforcement professionals vigorously oppose the release of the cold-blooded killer, including San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. Dumanis said she will take the unusual step of attending Friday’s parole board hearing, according to the Times. We urge Gov. Brown to display the same wisdom and courage he displayed last year if the parole board again recommends freeing the callous cop killer.
But while there are glimmers of hope, there is much more cause for concern.
As evidenced by its decisions to free hundreds of lifers in the past year alone, the parole board appears to be hell-bent on emptying the state’s prisons, no matter what kind of mayhem they unleash on the state’s unsuspecting civilians. We’re also under assault from Prop. 47, which, as we have previously reported, turned a host of felonies into misdemeanors, allowing thousands of hardened criminals to be eligible for early release. Law enforcement professionals agree that the surge in crime in many parts of the state – including here in Los Angeles – is directly tied to this horribly misguided voter-approved initiative.
It is imperative that all Californians rally against the increasing tide of threats to every man, woman and child who reside in, or visit, this state. We will do our part by informing you immediately and in detail about all broad threats to public safety as we become aware of them. Today, we repeat the call that we issued earlier this month for Gov. Brown to dim the din of insanity, and fix a travesty of justice, by demanding a change in the parole board’s decision in the Williams case. If you want to contact the Governor directly about Williams or Cecena, click here.
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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.