Vargas: Every officer brings a gun to a fistfight

By Joe Vargas

Oxnard Police Officer Daniel Oncea ended up in a life or death struggle on July 29 with a suspect he was trying to take into custody. Ultimately, he ended up having to shoot the suspect, who ran to his nearby home and barricaded himself inside only to surrender later.

Oxnard Police Department investigators were able to locate surveillance footage from a neighbors camera that captured the struggle. The department released the footage.

Officer Involved Shooting (“OIS”): UPDATE

The Oxnard Police Department is releasing the identity of the officer that was involved in the July 29, 2018 officer-involved shooting on the 1300 block of Ventura Boulevard.Officer Daniel Oncea was the sole officer involved in the shooting. Officer Oncea has been employed by the Oxnard Police Department since August of 2017, and is currently assigned to the department’s Patrol Division. At the time of this update, Officer Oncea is on paid administrative leave, per standard procedure.On July 29, 2018 at approximately 7:21 p.m., Officer Oncea was on patrol in the Royal Duke Mobile Home Park located in the 1301 East Ventura Boulevard. Officer Oncea saw an adult male subject known to him as Joel Tapia, Jr. Tapia has had many prior contacts with law enforcement in the past. Officer Oncea knew Tapia had outstanding warrants, and contacted him to take him into custody. What ensued was Tapia resisting arrest, and then actively assaulting the officer. Officer Onceas’s struggle with Tapia lasted approximately two and a half minutes. During the course of the struggle, Officer Oncea discharged his firearm, striking Tapia. The incident was not captured on the officer’s body worn camera system. However, detectives found a nearby security camera that captured the event, and acquired the footage. The video footage, which includes audio, captured the moment Officer Oncea contacted Tapia, and through the time of the officer-involved shooting. The Oxnard Police Department is releasing this video to the public, and it can be viewed by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/Rq_GkR9v1CsAs an advisory, some may find the video’s violent content to be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised. There are several things to note in the video that speak to the seriousness of this situation:● Tapia resists the officer’s initial effort to make the arrest, causing a struggle in the confined area between the vehicles. ● Tapia makes active effort to break free of the officer’s grasp, moving the struggle to the area behind the police vehicle.● The officer repeatedly tells Tapia to stop resisting.● Tapia grabs at the officer’s neck and lapel mic area.● Tapia makes efforts to grab/trap the officer’s head and neck.● Tapia punches the officer several times during the struggle.● Tapia reaches towards the officer’s right hip area, where the officer’s Taser and duty weapon are located.● After the officer’s weapon was loose and on the ground, Tapia made efforts to obtain it.● Tapia was on top of the officer, punching him multiple times, at the instant of the shooting.Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites stated, “Overall, the video clearly illustrates the dangers of police work. There are those that who will not only resist our officers from taking them into custody, but there are some who will actively assault an officer to the point where they escalate a situation to a shooting. When a suspect engages in assaultive behavior and reaches for the officer’s holster or weapon, the stakes of the encounter are immediately raised to a life-threatening event.” Immediately after the shooting, Tapia immediately let go of the officer and fled into his residence and barricaded himself inside. The Oxnard Police Special Enforcement Unit and Crisis Negotiation Unit responded to the scene. After several attempts to get him to surrender, officers made entry to the residence and took him into custody without further resistance. Upon his arrest, Tapia was transported to the Ventura County Medical Center, where he was treated for a gunshot wound. He was released from the hospital on August 2, and booked into the Ventura County Jail. On August 1, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office filed a criminal case that includes the following charges:● Resisting an executive officer (California Penal Code section 69(a))● Felony battery with injury upon a peace officer (California Penal Code section 243(c)(2)) ● Felony resisting an officer with attempted firearm removal from the officer’s holster (California Penal Code section 148(d))● Special allegations regarding committing offense while under release on his own recognizance on a prior offense (California Penal Code section 12022.1(b))● Special allegations for prior convictions, per California Penal Code section 667.5. (Tapia served a prison sentence in Idaho for a 2008 conviction)● Special allegations for prior convictions convictions allegation, per California Penal Code section 667.5. (Tapia served a prison sentence in Idaho for a 2014 conviction)As previously reported, Officer Oncea sustained minor injuries during the struggle. He was transported to Saint John’s Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for his injuries and released. Detectives are requesting anyone who might have witnessed the incident to contact Detective Jeff Kay (805) 385-8174 jeff.kay@oxnardpd.org. Detectives are also encouraging anyone who video recorded or photographed all or part of the incident to upload your media directly to detectives via the following link: https://oxnardpd.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/1301venturablvdDATE / TIME PREPARED: August 3, 2018, at 11:00 a.m.

Posted by Oxnard Police Department on Friday, August 3, 2018

According to the Oxnard Police Department, Oncea was in a mobile home park searching for Joel Tapia Jr. Apparently Tapia was a frequent customer, known to the police and wanted.

Oncea saw Tapia and tried to detain him while waiting for back-up officers. But Tapia wasn’t having anything to do with it. He immediately began to resist Oncea and they go to the ground, engaging in over two minutes of heart-pounding wrestling and ground fighting. For those who have never experienced being in a wrestling match, that is a long time and wrestling is physically taxing.

Family members rushed outside and of course their first reaction is to yell at the officer and pull out a cell phone camera. At no time does any bystander try to assist the officer.

Ultimately, with Tapia on top punching at him and with his service weapon now loose on the ground, the officer decides to regain control of his weapon and shoot.

Tapia runs into his residence and barricades himself inside. The SWAT team and negotiators respond and he is eventually taken into custody. He suffers a gunshot wound to his arm and Oncea suffers on minor injuries.

In a Facebook post, Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites stated, “Overall, the video clearly illustrates the dangers of police work. There are those that who will not only resist our officers from taking them into custody, but there are some who will actively assault an officer to the point where they escalate a situation to a shooting. When a suspect engages in assaultive behavior and reaches for the officer’s holster or weapon, the stakes of the encounter are immediately raised to a life-threatening event.”

The lesson here is every officer brings a gun to a fistfight. If he loses that fight, he potentially loses his life. Oncea survived to spend another day with his loved ones and family. He risked everything to ensure justice was served. Yet a crowd of people just watched and recorded it to capture what I have to assume they felt was police misconduct.

Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.