Christian Valdez's dad on how minor pot offenses led to son's "execution"

Earlier this month, eighteen-year-old Christian Valdez was killed by a California Highway Patrol officer following a high speed chase. California authorities subsequently portrayed the incident as a "suicide by cop" that ended the life of a dangerous prison escapee.

But Valdez's father disputes that. He feels his son, who was originally incarcerated for marijuana use, was essentially executed.

"I feel it was an execution," says John Valdez, who lives in Las Vegas, "because he had five or six policemen chasing him, and they were all there when he attempted to get out of the car. Now supposedly they thought he was reaching for a weapon -- but if it really looked like that, all of them would have shot my son. And only one of them did."

At the time of our original post, Colorado officials declined to give additional information about Valdez, including his conviction record and details about the facility from which he escaped. Why? Even though he was an adult when he died, he had been a juvenile at the time of his incarceration. But John, who calls his late son CJ, says the boy's jailing wasn't as a result of violence, but due to his fondness for marijuana.

"We were living in Monte Vista, in the San Luis Valley, and he got caught smoking pot," John says. "So they put him on probation, and as part of his probation, he had to keep doing urinalysis tests -- and he kept failing them because he wouldn't stop. Finally, they said, 'If you fail one more, we're going to put you in jail.' And when he failed another one, they did."

Valdez was placed at Ridge View Academy in Watkins, and while the setting can't be compared to that of a penitentiary, he chafed under his confinement. "Last year, he had three weeks or a month to go when he got a weekend pass," John recalls. By then, John and his wife were living in Las Vegas, where they'd moved to be closer to his elderly parents -- "so CJ would visit my wife's sister every weekend, for the family support. But he took off in her car. They caught him three months later and brought him back to Colorado and said, 'You're going to get a year for escaping,'

"In this time frame, CJ enrolled at a community college in Denver, and he was working at a Sonic in Littleton," he continues. "I thought he was finally getting his act together, and he only had until May before he would go on parole. But the kid who was with him" -- Jose Herrera, nineteen -- "left the day before CJ did. And then CJ left, too."

During the pair's period of freedom, "I don't know where they went," John says. "From what I heard, they went up and down California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and to Las Vegas," where they allegedly evaded capture in a chase that prefigured their final ride. "And I don't know where they were headed when this all came down."

Page down to continue reading about Christian Valdez, and to see a video of the police chase.