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Lawmakers, SDPD to petition governor to overturn cop killer’s parole

At left is a recent photo of Jesus Cecena, who as a 17-year-old gang member killed San Diego Police Officer Archie Buggs, right, on Nov. 4, 1978. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; San Diego Police Department)

SAN DIEGO — Local legislators and law enforcement officials plan to petition Gov. Jerry Brown to overturn a recent decision granting parole to a man who was 17 when he shot and killed a San Diego police officer nearly 40 years ago.

Officer Archie Buggs, 30, was shot four times after he stopped a car driven by Jesus Cecena, a gang member in the Skyline neighborhood, on Nov. 4, 1978. Cecena fired five times at Buggs, then paused, walked toward the fallen officer and fired a final bullet into his head at point-blank range. Buggs died on the street, his hand still on his service revolver.

Cecena was convicted of murder and sentenced in 1979 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since Cecena was a teenager at the time of the murder, his sentence was reduced to seven years to life in 1982.

A change in the law in 2014 made Cecena eligible to receive Youthful Offender Consideration at his parole hearings.

He was previously granted parole twice, in 2014 and 2015, but each time Gov. Jerry Brown reversed the grant after the district attorney’s objection.

After a hearing Thursday, a parole board at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla again recommended Cecena’s release. Board commissioners cited several factors that influenced the decision, including Cecena’s age and lack of maturity at the time of the killing, a religious conversion that led him to eschew gang life and no prison disciplinary offenses since 1987, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“He has shown growth,” Commissioner Michele Minor said.

Following a four-month administrative review, Brown will have the final say on whether the decision is reversed or upheld.

Cecena’s parole continues to be opposed by San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the San Diego Police Officers Association. Zimmerman said the parole board made a “terrible decision” to let Buggs’s killer go.

“We are incredibly disappointed by the poor decision of the parole board to free Cop Killer Jesus Cecena,” Zimmerman said. “He is a threat to public safety and deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars. We will petition Governor Brown to reverse this decision and send the right message to those who commit such despicable crimes.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate also indicated they would urge the governor to overturn the decision.

San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan and Deputy District Attorney Richard Sachs attended Cecena’s parole hearing to oppose his potential release.

“This cold-blooded execution of an on-duty police officer devastated the officer’s family, his department and our community,” Stephan said. “This crime was callous and inexplicably senseless. It demonstrated a total disregard for human life and disdain for those in a position of authority.”