Killer of SDPD officer in 1978 recommended for parole - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Killer of SDPD officer in 1978 recommended for parole

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- Three and a half decades after the execution-style murder of a San Diego police officer, his killer has been recommended for parole.

CBS News 8 sat down with the former partner of Officer Archie Buggs, 30, who was gunned down in the street in 1978.  That ex-cop, Jesse Navarro, is now asking the governor to block the release of the man who killed his friend.

“Archie and I were not only friends but he was the best partner that I ever had in the police department,” said Navarro, who now works for the district attorney’s office.

Navarro will never forget hearing that terrible call on his police radio 35 years ago.

“The call came out as 11-99, officer needs help, office down,” recalled Navarro.

Officer Buggs been shot multiple times during a traffic stop in Skyline. The final shot was in point-blank range to the head.

“I remember grabbing Archie and saying 'Archie, Archie I'm here.' But I wasn't getting any response. He was bleeding,” said Navarro.

Based on witness descriptions at the scene, Navarro knew right away who the suspects were: two gang members he and his partner had arrested on previous occasions.

Navarro's first instinct was to jump in his patrol car and go after the suspects but his supervisor would not let him.

“So, I was assigned to stand guard next to my friend’s body,” said Navarro.

Later that night, a SWAT team arrested Jose Arteaga, 20, and the triggerman, Jesus Cecena, age 17. Both received life sentences.

But because Cecena was a juvenile at the time of the killing, a recent change in the law now makes him eligible for parole.  His release to Fresno County was approved by the parole board in April.

“He would be a serious threat to society. He would be serious threat to our community and perhaps to other police officers, including my own family and Archie’s family,” said Navarro, who has written a letter to Governor Jerry Brown urging him to block Cecena's release.

Cecena, 53, has been a model prisoner for the past 26 years, according to a transcript of his parole hearing, and he expressed remorse to the board in April:

Thirty-five years ago, at the age of 17, I murdered Officer Buggs, a terrible and inexcusable crime. There’s no excuse or reasoning that could ever justify what I’ve done… His life was precious and I am so very sorry. Throughout these many years of interacting and talking with correctional officers, I have developed a profound respect and appreciation for the importance of peace officers in society...

Jesse Navarro is now the director of community relations for the district attorney, who is also urging the governor to block Cecena’s release. Governor Brown will begin reviewing the case at the end of this month.

Cecena’s attorney, Tracy Lum, emailed CBS News 8 the following statement:

I represented Jesus Cecena at his parole hearing in 2014. The Board of Parole Hearings Commissioners' are appointed by the Governor of the State of California and are required to uphold the laws of the State of California. Commissioner Arthur Anderson, who presided over Mr. Cecena’s parole hearings in 2012 and 2014, has been upholding the laws of the State of California for more than 30 years having served in the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in a variety of capacities. Commissioner Anderson worked his way up the ranks of the CHP, from a patrolman concluding his service in the position of assistant commissioner for field operations. Commissioner Anderson was appointed to the Board of Parole Hearings in 2008.

Commissioner Anderson denied Mr. Cecena parole in 2012, in part, because he found that Mr. Cecena minimized his responsibility in the crime and lacked insight into why he committed the crime, and suggested that Mr. Cecena work on these two issues for his next parole hearing. Mr. Cecena took this decision to heart and worked diligently to improve his insight into his actions in the murder of Officer Buggs.

In 2014, a new law "SB260" took effect, which determined that the parole board must consider and give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of individuals that committed their crimes prior to the age of 18. Mr. Cecena was 17 years old when he committed this crime.

At the 2014 parole hearing, the Board of Parole Hearings found that Mr. Cecena truly meets all suitability factors listed for consideration and takes full responsibility for the murder of Officer Buggs. He has been incarcerated 35 years and is now 53 years old. Commissioner Anderson followed the laws of the State of California and determined Mr. Cecena is now suitable for parole.

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