It will most likely be several weeks before specific details are known about Saturday’s shooting death of 28-year-old man at the hands of a park ranger at Tapia Park, which is located just outside of Malibu next to Malibu Creek State Park.
Two separate investigations are underway, with one being conducted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the other by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The two entities are not sharing information, so as to keep the independence of the two investigations intact.
State Parks spokesperson Roy Stearns said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the unidentified park ranger, who is on paid administrative leave during the investigations, fired the fatal shot at Onesimo Arturo Guzman as he drove a car toward him, failing to yield after the officer instructed him to do so. Stearns said the slow-moving vehicle bumped the park ranger in the leg.
“For some reason this person drove this car at this officer,” Stearns said. “And this officer felt threatened, that his safety was compromised. Driving a car at somebody is the same as pointing a gun at somebody. It’s assault with a deadly weapon.”
Stearns said the park ranger was dispatched to Tapia Park because two visitors at Malibu Creek Park had reported hearing gunfire. The officer, upon arriving at Tapia Park, spotted 10 to 12 cars and a group of people nearby who gave him the indication “from dress and behavior that they were potential gang members,” Stearns said. The park ranger walked toward the people and said he needed to talk to them. They immediately ran to their cars and drove away. But the car driven by Guzman went in the park ranger’s direction, Stearns said.
There were three other men in the car. They fled after the shooting, and were soon found by Sheriff’s officials. The men were questioned, and later released.
The Sheriff’s Department’s investigation is being conducted by the Homicide Bureau. The Homicide Bureau has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.
A press conference on Sunday at Malibu Creek State Park turned into a plea by the dead man’s brother and sister, Krystal and Joe Guzman, when they claimed their brother had been shot “in cold blood.” The siblings were not at Tapia Park on Saturday during the shooting.
When asked Tuesday about their claim, Stearns said. “I don’t want to criticize them. In an event like this, the family is tragically affected. We sympathize with their loss. We too would prefer that it never had happened. But it did… They’re going through a grieving period. We respect that.”
Joe Guzman told the Los Angeles Times that his brother had recently served five years in prison, and did not want to return. They said they planned to hire an attorney to investigate the shooting.
The park ranger who killed Guzman had been on the force for a little more than four years, Stearns said. He said as part of the six-month training to become a park ranger, individuals receive the same gun training “that a peace officer from any other agency would get,” which is established by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. Stearns said park rangers are required to recertify their badge every year with gun training and testing included.