Man ordered released from prison after Long Beach officer’s perjury arrest

A man sentenced to 39 years in prison for assaulting a Long Beach police officer during a car chase in 2010 was released from prison on Thursday, part of the growing fallout from the officer’s arrest on perjury charges, they said Officer.

Miguel Vargas, 34, was arrested in 2010 after he was 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 Vargas pointed a gun at him, but Vargas was still convicted of assaulting a police officer and gun possession.

Coupled with prosecution amendments filed because Vargas had a prior felony conviction and used a gun in the commission of a felony, the convictions prompted a judge to sentence Vargas to almost four decades in prison.

However, his conviction was called 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 the seizure of a handgun, which resulted in the wrong person being arrested and briefly held in custody,” according to prosecutors. Reyes was charged with perjury, falsifying a record and filing a false report. Salcedo was accused of falsifying a public record and filing a false report.

Reyes and Salcedo have both pleaded not guilty to the charges they face, records show.

“I’m excited. I’m incredibly happy,” said Vargas’ attorney Matthew Kaestner. “This cop, who probably shouldn’t have gone to the police, shot Miguel twice in the back, then his partner shot Miguel two more times in the back, and then they falsely claimed he was trying to attack them. He finally got a justification.”

The motion, filed by prosecutors, asked a judge to sentence Vargas, who has served 12 years in prison, on the gun possession charge and to vacate the assault charges over Reyes’ recent legal troubles. Prosecutors also cited Vargas’ “positive and productive” behavior in prison and the fact that he was the only person injured in the exchange with Reyes as reasons to upset him.

Kaestner said Vargas was leaving a party, which police responded to when he was being pursued by Reyes and Salcedo. He fled because he had a gun he was barred from possessing due to a previous felony conviction, but Kaestner said his client discarded the gun before Reyes opened fire. Reyes had claimed Vargas turned to him and reached for a firearm, but Kaestner said the pistol was found “twenty-five feet away” from where Vargas fell after being shot.

“They couldn’t explain it,” said Kästner.

The Long Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tiffiny Blacknell, a special counsel for the Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón, who serves as the bureau’s chief spokesperson, said prosecutors are reviewing other cases where Reyes has been listed as a potential witness to see if those defendants’ sentences could also be affected.

“Supervisors were further directed to share the information with defense counsel and to personally review case files to assess the integrity of any prior convictions and pending cases involving the officer,” Blacknell said.

Reyes’ arrest is the latest case of alleged misconduct by an officer, forcing LA County prosecutors to review cases that may have been targeted by an unreliable or biased officer. The bureau has also dismissed nearly 60 criminal cases involving Torrance police officers involved in a racist texting scandal.

Vargas will be released into a Los Angeles-based Amity Foundation rehabilitation program that works with victims of violence and ex-inmates to help them find jobs and cope with trauma, Kaestner said.

“I have a lot of hope for him,” said Kästner. “I think he’s ready to start his life again and I’m glad they will do whatever they can to help him get back into society.” Man ordered released from prison after Long Beach officer’s perjury arrest

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