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Father devastated by police killing

The Associated Press
Saturday September 16, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO — A Modesto auto mechanic said Friday he is devastated by the accidental shooting of his 11-year-old son by a veteran SWAT officer, and said he is innocent of the drug charge that led to the boy’s death and his own arrest during this week’s raid at their home. 

“I am destroyed,” Moises Sepulveda, accused of selling methamphetamine, said in Spanish during a telephone interview with the Associated Press hours after he was released from custody pending his next hearing. “They killed an innocent child.” 

Alberto Sepulveda, a seventh-grader, died Wednesday morning on the floor of his bedroom, accidentally shot in the back by a blast from officer David Hawn’s shotgun. 

As the family and community continued to criticize police for the raid, new details emerged about the sweeping 9-month drug investigation that targeted Sepulveda and more than a dozen others. 

For one, authorities disclosed for the first time that a reserve Modesto police officer — who was not immediately identified — lives at one of the 14 locations where SWAT teams served federal search warrants. 

At that particular site, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction, was asked by federal authorities to send in its SWAT team based on information that the officer might be armed. 

“We served soley as the tactical arm of the federal government in serving that search warrant in Waterford,” said Sheriff’s spokesman Kelly Huston. 

“So, as part of that, we were briefed and told the person was an active reserve officer with Modesto Police Department. We didn’t want to come face to face with a police officer in a disadvantageous situation. That is why we were asked to use a tactical team to enter that house.” 

Also Friday, a criminal complaint supporting Sepulveda’s arrest on a federal charge of methamphetamine trafficking cites wire-tapped phone conversations and direct surveillance allegedly showing that Sepulveda and a couple of associates teamed up to sell drugs. 

In the seven-page affidavit, filed at U.S. District Court in Fresno, Sepulveda and his associates are accused of using code words such as “eggs” for drugs when they spoke to each other over the phone. 

The search warrant that allowed entry into the Sepulveda home remained sealed. 

Sepulveda declined to talk about the case against him, referring all questions to his lawyer, John A. Garcia. 

“It’s a long story,” Sepulveda said. 

Garcia did not immediately return a phone call Friday. 

Sepulveda said his family is contemplating legal action against police in the accidental shooting, and was still seeking the “right lawyer” to handle that pursuit. 

Officer Hawn, who has spent more than 18 of his 21 year’s on Modesto’s police force with the SWAT team, remained on paid leave pending the outcome of ongoing and parallel investigations by his own department and the county district attorney’s office.