Ricardo Alfonso Cerna
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|Ricardo Alfonso Cerna|
Cerna in the interrogation room, just before his suicide
Guatemala City, Guatemala
|Died||December 19, 2003
Ricardo Alfonso Cerna (c. 1956 – December 19, 2003) was a Guatemalan immigrant to the United States known for committing suicide in 2003 with a gun in an interrogation room in the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office in Muscoy, California. A videotape was running and recorded the event. He was 47 years old.
Cerna was stopped by Sheriff's Deputy Michael Parham for a traffic violation on December 19, 2003. He attempted to escape in his car and then later on foot. During the pursuit, he shot Parham twice in the abdomen, but the wound was not fatal. Cerna was arrested shortly afterward. The San Bernardino Police, the county sheriff, and the California Highway Patrol were all involved in the chase, but during his apprehension, no one ensured he was properly searched.
Sitting alone in an interrogation room, Cerna shot himself in the temple at point-blank range with a .45-caliber handgun he had hidden in the front of his waistband. The event was recorded on the security surveillance camera in the room. Cerna died instantly.
The Sheriff's Department showed the security camera footage to the media the next day. To avoid sensationalism, only a limited number of selected reporters were permitted for viewing. Although the police tried to control access, the footage was leaked.
Cerna, who had previously been convicted of other serious crimes, may have understood that he was about to catch a third strike case via his attempted murder of Deputy Parham, and probably preferred to end his own life rather than die of old age in prison.
- 1. L.A. Times, Dec. 20, 2003, Article by Lance Pugmire
- Pugmire, Lance (December 23, 2003). "Suicide Victim Had 2 Strikes." Los Angeles Times, viewed July 5, 2014.