Jan 31, 2012 1:53 AM by Ariel Wesler

Officer memorial grows while investigation continues

The officer-involved shooting in Santa Maria has gained national attention. The police chief there says Albert Covarrubias Jr. was shot and killed when two supervisors tried to arrest him. He was under investigation for sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old girl.

A lot of people are curious to see how the investigation will play out in what has become a rather complex case.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney told KSBY News the entire process could take two to three months. Sheriff's investigators are busy gathering evidence in the case. It will then go to the DA's office, where they will determine whether the shooting was considered a "lawful use of force."

The memorial for 29-year-old Albert Covarrubias continues to grow. Monday evening, three girls who graduated with him from Santa Maria High School in 2000 gathered at the memorial.

"He was a true genuine friend," said Tiffany Almaguer of Santa Maria.

As they comforted each other and lit candles, they remembered the 29-year-old cop for how he lived.

"I admired him for going out and doing and becoming what he wanted to be," said Lori Alejandre of Santa Maria.

Not how he died.

"That's what's heartbreaking. He deserves to go out as cop. he protected and he served and he did his duty for his four years," Almaguer said.

Still, the Santa Maria police chief says Covarrubias fired first, prompting his officers to take immediate action. If history is any indication, prosecutors say these types of cases in Santa Barbara County rarely go to trial.

"In my experience, they have all been lawful uses of force," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen.

If they find the officer was not justified in his actions,

"Then, the decision will be made whether we have enough proof beyond a reasonable doubt to file a criminal case," Bramsen said.

But before any decision comes down, there will be an intensive review.

"That will include all the interviews, photographs, autopsy," Bramsen said.

For now though, the community is left wondering just what exactly unfolded.

This is the second officer-involved shooting in Santa Maria in the last two months. In December, two cops were accidentally shot by fellow officers during a shootout with an armed drug suspect. The DA says expects to decide next month whether any criminal charges will be filed in that case.

If the officer who shot Covarrubias is cleared of any wrong doing, the case files will become public.

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