Ricardo Alfonso Cerna

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Ricardo Alfonso Cerna
Born 1956
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Died December 19, 2003 (aged 47)
Muscoy, California
Nationality Guatemalan

Ricardo Alfonso Cerna (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. The room's video recording system was running and recorded the event. He was 47 years old.[1][2]


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.[3][4]

Sitting alone in an interrogation room, Cerna shot himself in the temple at point-blank range with a .45-caliber pistol he had hidden in the front of his waistband[5] after head of homicide, Officer Bobby Dean, handed Cerna a bottle of water.[4] The event was recorded on the security surveillance camera in the room. Cerna died on the scene.[1]

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.[citation needed]

Possible motive[edit]

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]


  1. ^ a b c Pugmire, Lance (2003-12-23). "Suicide Victim Had 2 Strikes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  2. ^ "Motorist in custody commits suicide". DeseretNews. 21 December 2003. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  3. ^ Doug Saunders (2015-04-11). "Why the ACLU thinks the beating by San Bernardino deputies is part of a bigger problem". San Bernardino Sun. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  4. ^ a b Alex O'Meara (2010). Bad Day for the Home Team. Alex O'Meara. pp. 107–. ISBN 978-1-936144-36-5. 
  5. ^ "Worldandnation: 3 counts dropped in spy case". St. Petersburg Times. 2003-12-21. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 

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