A man sentenced to 39 years in prison for assaulting a Long Beach police officer during a 2010 car chase was released from prison on Thursday as part of growing ramifications following the officer’s arrest on charges of perjury, officials said. .
Miguel Vargas, 34, was arrested in 2010 after being shot twice in the back by city police officer Dedier Reyes, who claimed Vargas was reaching for a gun, court records show. The gun was never fired and Reyes did not claim that Vargas was pointing a gun at him, but Vargas was still convicted of assaulting a police officer and possessing a gun.
Coupled with convictions filed because Vargas had a previous felony conviction and used a gun in the commission of a crime, the convictions led to a judge sentenced Vargas to nearly four decades in prison.
But his conviction came into question late last year after prosecutors charged Reyes and another Long Beach police officer, David Salcedo, in connection with a 2018 arrest. In that case, Reyes and Salcedo were “accused of lying about the circumstances surrounding it.” retrieving a gun, which resulted in the wrong person being arrested and held in custody for a short time,” the prosecutor’s office said. Reyes was charged with perjury, falsifying a record and filing a false return. Salcedo was charged with falsifying a public record and filing a false return.
Reyes and Salcedo have pleaded not guilty to the charges they face, evidence shows.
‘I am delighted. I’m incredibly happy,” Vargas’ attorney Matthew Kaestner said. “This officer, who probably shouldn’t have been with the force, shot Miguel twice in the back, then his partner shot Miguel twice in the back and then they falsely claimed he was trying to attack them. He finally got a justification.”
The motion filed by the prosecutor’s office asked a judge to sentence Vargas, who has spent 12 years in prison, to serve the gun-possession charge and to drop the assault charge over the recent Reyes’ legal problems. Prosecutors also cited Vargas’ “positive and productive” behavior in prison and the fact that he was the only person hurt in the exchange with Reyes as reasons to blame him.
Kaestner said Vargas was leaving a party to which police responded when he was chased by Reyes and Salcedo. He fled because he had a gun, which he was not allowed to possess due to a previous felony conviction, but Kaestner said his client threw the gun away before Reyes opened fire. Reyes had claimed that Vargas turned to him and reached for a firearm, but Kaestner said the gun was found “twenty-five feet away” from where Vargas fell after being shot.
“They couldn’t explain it,” Kaestner said.
Long Beach Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tiffiny Blacknell, a special counsel for Los Angeles County Dist. atty. George Gascón, who serves as the office’s chief spokeswoman, said prosecutors are investigating other cases in which Reyes was listed as a potential witness to see if those defendants’ sentences could also be influenced.
“Supervisors were further instructed to disclose the information to the defense attorney and personally review the files to evaluate the integrity of all prior convictions and pending cases involving the officer,” Blacknell said.
Reyes’s arrest is the latest case of alleged agent misconduct, forcing LA County prosecutors to review cases that may have been affected by an untrustworthy or biased agent. The office has also dropped nearly 60 criminal cases involving Torrance police officers in a racist texting scandal.
Vargas will be released into a Los Angeles Amity Foundation return program, which works with victims of violence and previously incarcerated individuals to help them find work and cope with trauma, Kaestner said.
“I have a lot of hope for him,” Kaestner said. “I think he is ready to get his life back on track and I’m glad they will do everything they can to help him get back into society.”