visalia – A Visalia man will serve the rest of his life in prison for the attempted murder of two Visalia Police officers.
On May 26, Judge Kathy Montejano sentenced Luis Avilez, 28, of Visalia, to 82 years to life in prison for the attempted murder of two Visalia Police Department officers in 2013. Avilez was convicted by a Tulare County jury on July 28, 2016 of two counts of attempted murder, with each count enhanced by the allegation of premeditation and with a firearm causing great bodily injury. Avilez was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm with the special allegation of being part of a criminal street gang.
While in custody for the offense in April of 2015, Avilez slashed a fellow inmate. He pled guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon on May 3, 2016.
On May 16, 2013, Avilez was observed driving erratically by officers of the gang suppression unit in the area of Holiday Homes near Ben Maddox and Houston Street. Officers stopped to investigate when Avilez pulled into a driveway. Avilez then jumped the fence into the backyard of the house where he had stopped to evade learned that Avilez had warrants for failing to turn himself in for a jail sentence related to domestic violence and drug charges. With the assistance of residents in the area, officers were able to pin down Avilez’s location to a house on Stover Street. With the permission of the home owner, officers entered the house where Avilez was located. Officers eventually discovered Avilez hiding under some clothes in a closest. Upon contact, officers ordered Avilez to submit to arrest. When he refused to comply, the officers holstered their weapons in order to place him under arrest. Avilez fired a .357 revolver hitting the officer in the left forearm when the officer tried to grab him.
Avilez then turned and shot a second officer in the shoulder. Avilez immediately returned to fire on the first officer three more times, including one shot to the center of the officer’s bullet proof vest with the other two shots severely injuring the officer’s right shoulder as well as upper body. Officers returned fire striking Avilez multiple times after which they were able to take Avilez into custody without further incident.
Avilez testified during the trial that he had warrants and was aware that officers were chasing him. During his testimony Avilez claimed to have no memory of the shooting, but admitted remembering what occurred immediately prior to and following the shooting. There was also testimony from a gang expert that Avilez was an active gang member in May of 2013 based on his prior admissions to being a gang member, numerous gang tattoos, association on the date of the crime with a fellow gang member, and the fact that the Avilez was wearing gang attire at the time the crimes were committed.
“Day in and day out, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect our communities, and this particular incident is a striking example of the dangers they face,” said District Attorney Tim Ward. “Thankfully no lives were lost, but that doesn’t mean lives weren’t changed. I hope that justice being served in this case provides the involved officers with solace.”