PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The family of an off-duty Marine shot and killed in a confrontation with Palm Springs police said they do not believe officer accounts, calling the 22-year-old’s alleged behavior “extremely out of character.”
The Marine, identified by the Desert Sun as Cpl. Allan DeVillena, who went by “AJ,” was fatally shot early Saturday. The Sun reported that DeVillena was with the 1st Marine Logistics Group based in Camp Pendleton, but stationed at Twentynine Palms.
“It’s heartbreaking the way they’re trying to portray him,” his aunt, Vivian DeVillena-Gaoiran, told the newspaper. “We know it’s not true. It’s not AJ. We know it and the Marine Corps knows it.”
Palm Springs police said the incident began shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday when two officers on bike patrol saw the Marine driving a black Chrysler with another man in the passenger seat. The two allegedly began shouting derogatory remarks at the officers.
One of the officers directed the driver to stop the car but he failed to do so, police said. An officer then climbed partially into the passenger side window trying to stop the vehicle, the department said.
“The suspect accelerated directly toward the second officer, striking him, and continued on with the initial officer suspended from the passenger side window,” a police statement said.
The vehicle crashed and, “fearing for their safety and the safety of their others,” the statement said, “both officers discharged their weapons.”
DeVillena was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The uninjured passenger, identified by the Sun as Pfc. Clint Harris, was cited and released for public intoxication and on a local outstanding misdemeanor warrant.
In a statement released to the Sun, police said the officers involved in the shooting “recognized” the two “from an earlier interaction with the two involving public intoxication that had been successfully resolved without incident.”
Neither man had a weapon, police said.
The pair were celebrating the Marine Corps’ 237th year, DeVillena’s father, Allan DeVillena, told the newspaper. The elder DeVillena said his son, who had been deployed to Afghanistan, was almost finished with his four-year enlistment and was looking forward to college.
“He was looking to get into audio engineering,” DeVillena said. “He wanted to get into recording. He wrote a lot. He had a passion for music.”
Vivian DeVillena-Gaoiran told the Sun her nephew’s alleged actions were “extremely out of character.”
“I know my nephew,” she said. “He would never do that.”
By Kate Mather and Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times