By Reggie Ellis
Tulare County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed a Strathmore man armed with a knife on July 12 after attempts to subdue him failed.
According to a news release, the Sheriff's Department received a call from a neighbor at about 5:30 p.m. saying that Jeremy Rodriguez, 33, may be suicidal. Deputies arrived at Rodriguez' home in the 22900 block of Lawson Drive in Strathmore at about 5:46 p.m. Rodriguez, who was home alone, brandished a knife and threatened the deputies.
The deputies sprayed Rodriguez with pepper spray but it had "little to no effect. It wasn't adequate to subdue the subject," said Lt. Keith Douglas with the Sheriff's office. The subject continued to threaten officers and two deputies drew their weapons and shot him. Douglas said there were four deputies at the house but only two fired shots. Rodriguez was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Nextdoor neighbor Gabriel Orosco said he heard five to six shots from inside his home. One of the bullets put a hole in his garage wall. "I thought they were firecrackers left over from Fourth of July," he said. Orosco said Rodriguez had lived in the house for about two months. "I have only seen him outside of his house twice," he said. "He couldn't walk very well because he was all hunched over."
Kathy Hurt, a close friend who lives down the street, said Rodriguez suffered from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Hurt said he had just moved back to Strahmore after living in Tulare for a few years. She said her son, Kyle, had seen him the night before and said he seemed upset and depressed.
"He has really had a hard time dealing with his father's death," said Hurt, who has known Rodriguez for 10 years. "He died over a year ago and Jeremy was was upset he couldn't do anything for him and had to watch him die slowly."
She described Rodriguez - a big man about 250 pounds and about 6 feet tall - as quiet, calm and well liked with lots of friends. She said his mother and siblings live in Tulare and he has a wife and a 4-year-old daughter, Mikayla, who live in Lindsay. "He wasn't a trouble maker. I am really surprised that they shot him. I just can't believe it."
Pam Zeller, who lives around the corner, said the neighborhood is infested by a drug house down the street from Rodriguez' home. She said she and her husband see cars, men on bikes and people coming and going from the house, and saw Rodriguez there many times.
"He seemed like a nice man, but he was always at this house," said Zeller, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1998. "I never saw any problems with him but I can tell they are doing drugs down the street. We here shooting all the time here. I probably call the sheriff's department once a month."
Lt. Douglas said deputies have only been to Rodriguez' home one other time for a burglary report.
Douglas said no other information would be released until after an autopsy report was completed. The autopsy was scheduled for last Thursday, but there were no results as of press time.