UPDATED: GPD officer faces charges

Noel Lemus

An allegedly drunk Gilroy Police Department officer barricaded himself in a bedroom and resisted arrest when Merced County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a shots-fired call at a residence last month.

Officer Jesus Noel Lemus, 45, was charged with a misdemeanor last week by the Merced County District Attorney. Lemus was found hiding in a bedroom on the 2200 block of East Reilly Road March 8, just south of Merced. According to Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Barile’s report, Lemus initially refused to allow Barile to enter the room after deputies responded to the 911 call.

The report states that Barile repeatedly asked a visibly intoxicated Lemus where the discharged firearm was, but Lemus refused to talk and instead tried to exit the room. At that point, Barile forced Lemus to lie on the ground. Lemus is now facing a charge of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.

Officer Lemus is currently on medical leave from GPD while collecting his full monthly salary of $8,887.38, according to the city’s HR Director LeeAnn McPhillips. Lemus was on the same medical leave at the time of his tussle with the Merced County deputies and hasn’t been on active duty with GPD since.

But the incident in Merced isn’t the first time Lemus – a nine-year GPD veteran – has attracted the attention of his superiors.

During subsequent questioning in Merced, Lemus pleaded with Deputy Barile not to inform GPD about the incident, because he already had two pending internal affairs investigations. Lemus’ name also crops up in a recent damages claim for “excessive force” against the City of Gilroy, although GPD Chief Denise Turner says, “I don’t think that there’s any connection between this claim and the two pending internal investigations.”

When pressed about the nature of the pending internal affairs investigations, Turner replied, “I’m not going to comment.” She said that internal affairs investigations are not uncommon, although GPD doesn’t usually get that many cases. Calling the issue an “internal affairs investigation” doesn’t necessarily indicate a level of seriousness, the chief added. Some complaints are dealt with by supervisors “within an hour” and others are handed directly to internal affairs as a matter of routine, Turner said. But whichever route the complaints take, Turner remarked, speed is of the essence.

“We do try to expedite,” she said. “We don’t want things to drag on.”

Plaintiff John Bowles of San Jose names Officer Lemus, along with five other members of GPD, in an “excessive force” damages claim filed Feb. 5. Bowles alleges that the Gilroy officers used “excessive taser force and beat me with clubs, breaking my elbow,” while he was being arrested Aug. 6, 2012 on Church Street in Gilroy for assault with a deadly weapon (Bowles refutes the charge). The claim for $25,000 in damages was rejected by City Council Monday.

When contacted last Friday, Officer Lemus told the Dispatch, “I cannot answer any questions” and hung up.

After the incident in Merced County, Deputy Barile’s report noted that his supervisor, Sgt. Mike Harris, believed that Lemus should be given a break.

“Sgt. Harris told me not to write, say or do anything that would hurt Noel with his department and not to seize the gun,” Barile wrote.

Attempts by the Dispatch to contact Sgt. Harris were unsuccessful. Merced County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Delray Shelton said that Sgt. Harris is presently on an unspecified leave. Deputy Barile is currently out on leave for an injury, according to Deputy Shelton.

In Barile’s report, the gun fired in Merced is identified as a Glock .45-caliber with a sales record issued from the San Jose Police Department and registered to Officer Lemus out of the City of Gilroy.

At the incident scene March 8, Lemus told Deputy Barile that he had hidden the weapon in a bedroom dresser. The weapon had a fully loaded magazine and a round in the chamber. Barile believed the gun to be Lemus’ service weapon for GPD, according to his report.

San Jose PD Sgt. Jason Dwyer confirmed that Lemus had been a SJPD reserve police officer and served from October 2002 to May 2004. He said that although the weapon has a “sales record” from SJPD, that doesn’t mean Officer Lemus or whoever owns the gun bought the weapon from them directly.

“We didn’t issue that weapon,” he reiterated.

Two other men at the scene, Ramon Lemus, 45, and Loreto Gurrolalugo, 42, both admitted taking turns firing the Glock on the property owned by Noel Lemus’ father, Adolfo Lemus, in Merced. It is not known whether Ramon Lemus is directly related to Officer Lemus. No arrests were made that night, but Deputy Barile listed Officer Lemus and the others present as suspects for a criminal case to be filed with the Merced County DA’s Office. Turner was notified by phone, shortly after the charges were filed, of the arrest around 4 p.m. April 10 by the Merced County DA. The chief said that this was the first time she had heard anything about the Merced incident. The GPD has now opened a parallel internal investigation and will ascertain whether the crime and any sentence imposed could preclude the officer from remaining on the force.

“I only know that they are charging the officer,” Turner said. “We will obtain all the relevant documents through the Public Records Act.”

In Turner’s five-year tenure at GPD, this is the first incident of a GPD officer being charged with a crime. In her 30-year career, she recalled other officers who had lost careers over “their decisions,” but was adamant that Lemus be afforded his right to due process.

In accordance with policies and the Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights (Government Code Section 3300 et seq.), there is no further information that the city can release while the criminal and administrative matters proceed.