Mayor, council members release statement – “this situation exacerbates our ongoing staffing challenges in the Police Department”
By City of Martinez
As previously reported, on August 18, 2023, around 3:27 a.m., the Martinez Police Department received a report of a video alarm at Velvet, a cannabis dispensary, located at 4808 Sunrise Drive. While enroute, officers were advised of multiple subjects at the business along with two vehicles.
Officers arrived on scene around 3:32 a.m. and one of the vehicles, described as a white SUV, fled the scene. Officers broadcast that shots were fired and there was an assault on an officer. The second vehicle attempted to flee and then crashed into a fire hydrant. The two occupants of the vehicle were transported to the hospital.
Based on the investigation, it is believed that four Martinez police officers discharged their firearms in this incident. The four officers have been placed on administrative leave as per department policy.
One of the civilians in the incident who was transported to the hospital is deceased.
The officers involved in this shooting have been identified as: Officer Cole Bennett, Officer Marc Kahue, Officer Raul Ceja-Mendez and Officer Alexander Tirona. All officers were assigned to patrol at the time of the incident. The California Department of Justice, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1506, is conducting an independent investigation into the use of force by each officer in this incident. I unequivocally support their investigation and the police department is fully cooperating. I am confident they will find the answers to many of the questions that have been raised and provide us all with an understanding as to what happened.
At the conclusion of their investigation, DOJ will provide a public report containing their determinations regarding the lawfulness of the use of force as well as their findings and recommendations regarding the policies and practices of the Martinez Police Department.
The Martinez Police Department initiated a separate administrative investigation into this incident. The purpose of this investigation is to determine whether the use of force by each officer complied with department policies and procedures. An outside firm is conducting this investigation.
These investigations will both take time, but it is critical they are able to accomplish their respective tasks carefully, comprehensively and independently, based on facts and the evidence.
The officers involved were wearing body-worn cameras. Generally, the body-worn video is subject to release within 45 days following the incident, with certain exceptions. The department intends to release the videos within the 45 days.
Mayor, Councilmembers Issue Statement
In response Martinez Mayor Brianne Zorn and Councilmembers issued the following statement on Friday, August 25:
Today, the Department of Justice released the names of our four officers involved in the August 18th shooting at the Velvet Cannabis Dispensary. We acknowledge and understand the public’s interest in the ongoing investigations conducted separately by the Department of Justice for use of force, and an outside investigations firm for administrative policy compliance. We trust that these processes will arrive at the truth and remain committed to transparency as both investigations continue. These investigations will take time to complete, and we request patience as the information is compiled, analyzed, and evaluated by the appropriate independent authorities to ultimately determine the findings.
We recognize that this situation exacerbates our ongoing staffing challenges in the Police Department and are exploring all available resources and options to continue to keep our community safe and respond to all crimes in progress.
Brianne Zorn, Mayor
Mark Ross, Vice Mayor
Debbie McKillop, Councilmember
Jay Howard, Councilmember
Satinder S. Malhi, Councilmember
Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.