Suspect Killed by Visalia Officer was Ex-Felon and Drug Dealer
VISALIA – The man shot to death by a police officer during a traffic stop last week has been identified as an ex-felon and a drug dealer.
The Visalia Police Department identified the suspect as 22-year-old Armando Santibanez of Visalia. Police Chief Colleen Mestas said that the narcotics unit “was familiar with Santibanez and had arrested him on two prior occasions.”
Police were hoping to arrest the suspect again when they pulled him over in a white BMW Friday afternoon one block away from Annie R. Mitchell Elementary School in Visalia. They say he had been selling meth and using rental cars without a license to make the deals.
When the officers pulled him over, Santibanez “was immediately defiant to the commands of our officers,” Mestas said. “He began to roll up his window and he began to rev the engine.”
Officers yelled at the suspect to stop moving his hands, but he failed to listen to officers, and instead appeared to be reaching for something, Mestas said.
“Our officer shot five times at the suspect believing that at any time of the revving of this engine that was continual, that the car was going to prevent him from living or other citizens,” Mestas said.
Santibanez was taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Police found a 9mm handgun under the seat with nine bullets in it. The gun had been reported stolen out of Los Angeles. Police also found a bullet casing on the car floor and a nylon mask.
The officer involved in the shooting is on paid leave.
“I support the actions of our officers,” Mestas said.
Santibanez had felony convictions for possession of drugs for sale. He had also been arrested for DUI, resisting arrest, reckless driving with bodily injury, being an unlicensed driver and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
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