Language Barrier Led To Fatal Shooting, Family Says


Stockton — The man shot and killed by police near Cesar Chavez High School on Saturday would still be alive if he was able to communicate with officers or police had sent someone who could speak Spanish, said relatives of Gustavo Peña Izaguirre on Wednesday.

Peña, 26, a recent [illegal] immigrant from Mexico, was killed by police after an altercation with officers outside of the school Saturday.

According to friends and relatives, Peña, a farm worker and occasional construction worker, had run out of gas in his car [which he was driving illegaly] on Windflower Lane about 5 p.m. He had no money and asked others in the area for help, said his cousin, Jesus Peña, 21.

But he only encountered English-speaking students returning from a band competition and parents who were afraid of him and didn’t understand what he wanted, Jesus Peña said.

‘If there was someone who would have spoken Spanish, none of this would have ever happened,’ added Teresita Corrales, a close friend of Gustavo Peña Izaguirre.

Police say Peña refused verbal commands and fought with a Stockton Unified officer, causing minor injury to the officer. When Stockton police officers arrived, he again disobeyed orders and was not deterred by the use of pepper spray or a Taser. Peña was armed with a 4-foot sharpened stick, prompting officers to consider him a threat.

‘They had exhausted all other options,’ said Officer Pete Smith, a spokesman for the Stockton Police Department. ‘He was not responsive to either one of those options and became even combative. The sergeant who shot him was left with no alternative.’

Peña was shot twice in the stomach and died about an hour later at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. The decision to shoot came about two minutes after city officers arrived on scene, Smith said.

2 Responses to “Language Barrier Led To Fatal Shooting, Family Says”

  1. Real American Says:

    Maybe had this illegal trespasser taken the time to learn basic english HE would not have gotten shot. Its called personal responsibility. Negroes and Mexicans need to get it through their heads, you come here, you go by OUR rules and speak OUR language. If you cannot do that, then do not come here, period.

  2. Ralph Says:

    Evidently “Real American” doesn’t live in the real America or even the real world for that matter. The reality is that many speakers of other languages can come and live here for years and prosper without learning English.

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