Placeholder Imagephoto credit: Natasha Kimmel
The family of David Pelaez-Chavez at a vigil in 
in Santa Rosa.




It’s been one year since a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed local farmworker, David Pelaez-Chavez. His family and community members are calling on District Attorney Carla Rodriguez to bring charges against the deputy involved. 

Holding flowers and signs, a group of around 80 people gather at Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square on July 29. Local organizer Karym Sanchez addresses the crowd. Behind him, a large banner reads, “It’s been 365 days, justice for David Pelaez-Chavez.” 

Sanchez is with the North Bay Organizing Project. They’re a social justice group that helped organize the vigil to honor David Pelaez-Chavez, an immigrant farmworker who was shot and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Dietrick.

"His family called for this vigil. I've been in close contact with his family since shortly after he was killed a year ago," Sanchez said. "And we've been standing with them calling for justice. And we are continuing that call today. Calling on DA  Rodriguez to do the right thing and press hold Deputy Dietrick accountable."

Pelaez-Chavez was shot and killed after a 45-minute foot pursuit through rocky and wooded terrain east of Healdsburg.. 

Body camera footage shows Pelaez-Chavez was barefoot and behaving erratically. His family claims he was in crisis, and toxicology reports show he was under the influence of methamphetamine. 

Deputy Dietrick alleges Pelaez-Chavez was threatening him with a rock and gardening tools before fatally shooting him three times in the head and chest. The other officer on the scene fired his taser.

Now, a year later, David’s brother Jose Pelaez says the family fears the public is forgetting his story. In an impassioned speech, he urged the district attorney to bring charges against the officer involved. He spoke to the crowd in Spanish through the help of an interpreter.

"We want the DA to do her job and to press charges and hold the officer accountable who did this to my brother," Jose Pelaez said.

The criminal investigation is currently in the hands of the Sonoma County District Attorney.

In general, the DA’s office tries to issue a decision within 90 days after receiving the reports. But in some cases, including this one, District Attorney Carla Rodriguez says it can take more time.

"My goal and my job is to make sure that we make the right decision based on the law and the facts," Rodriguez said. "And unfortunately, sometimes that takes longer than less complex cases."

Rodriguez says part of that delay is because prosecutors are still waiting for an expert witness to weigh in on the case.

Izaak Schwaiger, an attorney representing the Pelaez family in a civil lawsuit against the county, says the wait has been particularly hard on the family.  

"Because everything's just in limbo," Schwaiger said. "And every single day, they're reliving the death of a loved one without any answers as to why and whether anyone's going to be held

Placeholder Imagephoto credit: Natasha Kimmell

responsible for it."

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department says they’re working on an internal investigation but have not issued any disciplinary action or policy changes. In an email, they confirmed Dietrick is still on the job.

Back at the vigil, Alfredo Pelaez, another brother of Pelaez-Chavez, spoke to the crowd. He notes that his brother’s death is not the first fatal shooting involving Dietrick. 

In 2016, Dietrick shot and killed a man while he was an officer at the Clearlake Police Department. The shooting was ruled justified, and Pelaez  fears, with little accountability, this could happen to another family. 

"Because like I said, we know that this deputy killed somebody before he killed my brother," Alfredo Pelaez said to the crowd through an interpreter. "And the only thing they did was change him to a different county. There was no justice in that."

As they await the DA’s deliberation,  these are the questions plaguing the Pelaez family. One year after the death of their loved one, it's clear that while it may not be swift, the Pelaez family is still hoping for justice. 


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