By Alberto Garcia
A San Diego Police Department officer charged with a misdemeanor for exhibiting a gun in a threatening manner toward a female driver during an alleged road rage incident while he was off-duty last March had also been one of three officers who shot and killed a man in 2019.
William Carter Torres, 30, a four-year veteran of the Department, pled not guilty to the charge that he flashed his gun after a female driver was honking and driving erratically. Torres was driving his personal vehicle at the time of the incident.
His lawyer, Gerald Smith, says Torres was afraid he was being followed as some police officers reported have been since the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. There is no evidence that the other driver knew Torres was a police officer or was following him.
Torres was arrested and suspended after the traffic incident occurred on March 4. He now is assigned to administrative duties pending resolution of his case.
In May 2018, Torres was among three SDPD southern division officers who fatally shot Raul Rivera, 42, who they confronted after reports of a pedestrian walking in traffic lanes while holding a knife.
Officers first used Tasers and fired bean bags rounds to detain Rivera, but then shot Rivera when he advanced toward them with the knife, according to police accounts. The shooting occurred at the intersection of Hollister Street and Tocayo Avenue in the Nestor community of South San Diego.
More than a year after Rivera’s death, SDPD released body worn camera footage of the incident, showing Rivera removing Taser barbs from his body before being shot multiple times at close range by the three officers. Police reports showed that 28 bullet cartridges, 9 bean bag cartridge casings, and 4 Taser cartridges were found at the scene.
Rivera’s family said Rivera was in a bad mental state at the time of the shooting and they wished that police officers had tried to help him instead of resorting to shooting him.
District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office did not bring any charges against any of the three officers involved in shooting.