BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The family of a local man who died nine days after he was arrested by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies remembered him as friendly, loving and good-hearted.
The deputies who struggled to arrest Ronnie Ledesma Jr. on Aug. 19 remember him as having extraordinary strength fueled by a drug cocktail.
Ledesma’s family knew he battled drugs but they don’t believe his drug use played a role in his death.
“My dad was a loving, caring person,” said 22-year-old Adriana Ledesma. “He always had a smile on his face.”
Preliminary toxicology reports revealed Ledesma had PCP, amphetamines and Benzodiazapine in his system at the time of his death. An autopsy was performed but results are pending.
Ledesma, 39, died about 10 p.m. Wednesday, nine days after his Aug. 19 arrest.
A cellphone video shot on the night of Ledesma’s arrest and released Friday by the sheriff’s department shows deputies repeatedly telling Ledesma to stop resisting and to lie flat on the ground outside the Walgreens store at 2628 Mt. Vernon Ave. Ledesma continues yelling and a deputy can be heard telling another deputy to watch out for Ledesma’s leg.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood said a deputy responded to the Walgreens for a report of two men acting strangely and possibly under the influence of drugs and making threatening statements to people inside the store. The deputy contacted a man later identified as Ledesma and, when he tried to arrest him, Ledesma started to leave and a physical altercation began.
The deputy used his baton and control holds but Ledesma continued to struggle, Youngblood said. More deputies arrived and used baton strikes and a K9 on Ledesma, but to little effect.
Finally, several deputies were able to hold Ledesma down and handcuff him. They took him to Kern Medical Center.
Youngblood said Ledesma apologized to the deputies for trying to hurt them and the K9, and he admitted using PCP. He began having complications and was admitted to the hospital, where he died nine days later.
Youngblood said he can understand there are questions from the public given Ledesma’s death and the in-custody deaths of David Silva on May 8 and Wilfredo Ramos on June 17. But he said the totality of the circumstances needs to be looked at in each case.
“The common denominator is they’re all under the influence of either methamphetamine or PCP,” Youngblood said.
The sheriff said the use of those drugs makes a person stronger than they’d usually be and more difficult to take into custody. He added that any time there’s a death it’s traumatic for not only the family but also deputies and the community at large.
Youngblood said the deputies involved in the incident are Warren Martin, Karena De La Garza, James Melton, Christopher Wong and Dwayne Perkins. They remain on duty.
Adriana Ledesma said the family is hurting and they believe Ronnie Ledesma died because of the injuries he suffered from deputies. She said they plan to retain an attorney.
“He didn’t deserve this,” she said.