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August 3, 2004 - The San Jose Mercury News (CA)

Drug Agent Denies Guilt In Slaying In San Jose

Man Who Was Shot Downtown On Feb. 17 Had Been Mistaken For Fugitive Parolee

By Yomi S. Wronge

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Flanked by armed plainclothes officers, state drug agent Mike Walker pleaded not guilty Monday to a manslaughter charge in the Rodolfo "Rudy'' Cardenas killing.

A clean-cut Walker was whisked into the Hall of Justice in San Jose, where he was arraigned on a single charge of manslaughter for the Feb. 17 slaying of Cardenas. Walker mistook the father of five for a fugitive parolee, gave chase, and then shot him in the back while he was trying to flee.

Walker, a Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement agent, sat in the back of the courtroom, out of sight of Cardenas' family members who took up the first several rows of chairs.

When his case was called, the 33-year-old Walker moved to the front of the court, stood stoically with his hands in his suit pockets and was handed the two-page indictment that states he "did unlawfully and without malice aforethought kill Rodolfo Cardenas, a human being.''

Walker, who was booked and released without bail last week, said "not guilty'' when asked by Judge James C. Emerson how he pleaded. Then the former Watsonville police officer was fingerprinted and rushed out of the Hall of Justice with a buffer of law enforcement colleagues. He has been placed on routine administrative leave.

The trial has been scheduled for Sept. 20.

Walker's attorney, Todd Simonson, said he will immediately file a motion to dismiss the indictment.

"This case boils down to a split-second decision to shoot or not to shoot,'' Simonson said, elaborating on Walker's defense that he thought Cardenas had a gun. No firearm was recovered.

If convicted of manslaughter, Walker could face up to 10 years in state prison with an enhancement for the use of a firearm.

Dave Darrin, a supervising agent with the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, said Walker has the full support of the state behind him, as well as family and friends.

"They feel he was out there doing his job and ultimately will be vindicated,'' Darrin said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Justice, which oversees the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, has launched its own investigation of the shooting and events leading up to the chase, which Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff called "stupid and dangerous.''

Liroff said he will file two motions of his own, one to obtain any preliminary review of the case by the state and the other to sort out whether Walker's defense attorney has a conflict of interest because, Liroff said, he initially claimed to represent some of the state's witnesses.

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