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Man fatally shot by Santa Ana police was holding replica gun

December 17, 2010 | 12:33 pm

A man shot and killed by Santa Ana police while standing just steps from his wife and 2-year-old son was holding a replica gun, a police official said.

Family members acknowledge that Elmer Alexander Perez, 27, was high on drugs and behaving erratically before the shooting early Thursday, but they insist he posed no threat to officers or his family.

Perez had a long record of arrests and convictions related to drug use, drug sales and possession of burglary tools, police said. Authorities deported him to Mexico in 2006 after he served time for charges related to possessing stolen property.

A family member described him as likable and interested in computers but troubled by persistent drug abuse.

His wife called police Thursday morning because she was concerned about Perez's erratic behavior. He lived with his parents, child and pregnant wife.

“He was just like imagining things, saying like, ‘I see a cat,’ and ‘You guys have cameras here,’ ” said Jessica Gomez, the wife of Perez’s brother. “But he wasn’t violent to us.”

Police acknowledged the 911 caller told them Perez was toying with a fake gun. But when officers arrived, Perez’s stepfather told them he was not sure whether the gun was real, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Officers also said they heard Perez talking about killing himself.

“They were at the front door and could hear an altercation going on upstairs, both verbal and physical,” Bertagna said. “They had the impression she was being assaulted physically and verbally. When the screams got louder, they feared for her safety and made the decision to go inside the open door.”

Officers say they were part way up the stairs when Perez confronted them at the top and refused to drop what looked like a weapon. That when police fired, Bertagna said.

The family insisted Perez was not violent and posed no threat, and they said at least one family member at the scene had assured officers the gun was not real.

“The baby saw when they shot his daddy,” said Gomez, who was not present during the shooting. “He tells us in Spanish that his daddy fell down. But he doesn’t know his daddy is dead already, and he’s never going to see his dad no more.”

“Calling the cops was the worst mistake ever because they shot our loved one,” she said.

-- Howard Blume