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Monday, September 8, 2008

[CA] Sgt. Starzyk killed trying to save 3 women & 3 children at domestic call

"We are a department in mourning"

[UPDATE: SGT. STARZYK DONATIONS - Donations can be made by phone at 925-228-7550 ext. 855 or mailed to Contra Costa Federal Credit Union, Starzyk Family Memorial Fund, Account #57950-00, 1111 Pine Street, Martinez, CA 94553. CATALINA TORRES SCHOLARSHIP FUND - A scholarship in honor of Catalina Torres has been established at Diablo Valley College. Donations can be made to Diablo Valley College Foundation, 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. The memo line of the check should read "Catalina Torres Scholarship Fund." SGT. STARZYK VIGIL - The Martinez City Council has canceled its Wednesday meeting and instead, at 7 p.m., will lead a candlelight vigil in Starzyk's memory at City Hall, 525 Henrietta Street. CATALINA TORRES FUNERAL - A service will be held for Catalina at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Martinez, 1125 Ferry St., at 2 p.m. Friday. SGT. PAUL STARZYK FUNERAL - A service will be held at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, at 11 a.m. Thursday.]
"She died as she lived - a hero"

Guest books for Paul Starzyk, Catalina Torres, Felix Sandoval

San Francisco Chronical
Demian Bulwa
Monday, September 8, 2008
[Excerpts] Trying to save three women and three screaming children from an angry gunman, Martinez police officers Paul Starzyk and Ian Leong stood in a narrow hallway leading to a second-floor apartment on Saturday - and prepared to go in. But before they could, police officials said, gunman Felix Sandoval poked a hand out from behind the door and opened fire, blindly, with a .38-caliber revolver. Starzyk, a 47-year-old sergeant, was wearing a bulletproof vest but was hit twice in the upper body. Starzyk initially returned fire along with Leong, but he was fatally wounded. Within minutes, officials said, Sandoval was shot dead by a third officer who responded to the apartment and unleashed a German shepherd. Once inside the apartment, authorities found a 44-year-old woman - the cousin of Sandoval's estranged wife - dead in the kitchen... Starzyk was the father of two young boys and a girl.... Friends of Sandoval's other apparent victim - Catalina Torres, a 44-year-old mother of two grown sons - said her death was bitterly ironic because she had worked as a volunteer advocate for battered women at Concord-based Stand! Against Domestic Violence... Police are working closely with Starzyk's family to plan his funeral, which is tentatively scheduled for Thursday. They are also setting up a college fund for Starzyk's children... "The people of California are forever indebted to Paul's tireless service, and we will never forget his selfless dedication to public safety," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement Sunday. Flags flew at half-staff at the Capitol... [Full article here]

San Francisco Chronicle
Henry K. Lee, Rachel Gordon,Demian Bulwa
September 7, 2008
[Excerpts] ...A shaken Martinez police chief announced that Sgt. Paul Starzyk, a 12-year veteran of the force, was shot to death after he responded to a domestic violence call at Elegant Hair Design, a beauty salon on Pacheco Boulevard, near Morello Avenue and across the street from the Shell Martinez Refinery. He leaves behind a wife, who is a deputy sheriff with Contra Costa County, and three young children. Starzyk, a 47-year-old Antioch resident, was airlifted by helicopter to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek but did not survive his life-threatening injuries, said Police Chief Tom Simonetti. "As a department and a community, we are devastated by this tragedy," Simonetti said. "We are a department in mourning."... Stephen Boutte said he was driving by the shop when he witnessed the suspect smash the plate-glass window. Boutte said he got out of his van, confronted the suspect and asked him what was going on. "He kept telling me everything was OK, but people inside the shop were screaming at me to call 911," he said. Boutte said the suspect calmly walked around to the back of the business, and it was there, outside the salon, that gunfire erupted... In a story that ran in the Contra Costa Times last month on new police recruits, Starzyk was quoted talking about the life of a police officer. "I LIKE TO SAY, 'IT'S A FRONT-ROW SEAT AT LIFE,' " HE TOLD THE NEWSPAPER. "YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CALLING TO COMMUNITY SERVICE. ONCE YOU GET THE JOB YOU FEEL YOU KNOW YOU COULDN'T DO ANYTHING ELSE." Martinez Councilman Mark Ross, who knew Starzyk, said the officer died a hero. "He arrived at a very dangerous scene and intervened to try to protect one of our citizens," Ross said. "We lost one of our finest"... Marco Nunez, a friend of Torres, said she recently helped his family cope with his sister's battle against cancer... Nunez said that while he doesn't know exactly how the tragic shooting unfolded, he believes Torres was trying to protect her cousin. He called Jose Felix Sandoval "a coward"... Police from Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Concord were joined by Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and Contra Costa County firefighters on the scene. Also on the scene were representatives of the Contra Costa County district attorney's office... [Full article here]


  1. Martinez sergeant died from gunshot fired blindly
    By Robert Salonga and Malaika Fraley
    Contra Costa Times

    MARTINEZ — It was a tragic stroke of chance.

    A blind, one-in-a-million shot killed Martinez police Sgt. Paul Starzyk on Saturday morning. The shooter, police say, stuck his hand through a crack in a door and fired his .38-caliber revolver twice, strikingStarzyk as the officer prepared to enter an apartment where the man terrorized six people and killed one.

    Starzyk, 47, was a former SWAT team leader known for his expertise during gunbattles, said Martinez police Chief Tom Simonetti.

    Starzyk had spent the past few years teaching officers how to maneuver in "active shooter" situations, in which an officer tactically navigates a building while pursuing an armed suspect.

    On Monday, the city continued to mourn the loss of an officer in the line of duty — something it hasn't experienced in 35 years. A memorial fund was set up forStarzyk's family and a candlelight vigil was planned in memory of the shooting victims.

    Meanwhile, a tumultuous picture emerged regarding the relationship between 49-year-old shooter Felix Sandoval Jr. and his wife, Margarita, who was the intended target of the attack that killed her cousin Catalina Torres, 44, a teacher and advocate for domestic-abuse victims.

    An autopsy found that a gunshot wound to the chest killed Starzyk, a 12-year department veteran. Simonetti said the fatal bullet struck a spot below Starzyk's neck, above the plating of his bulletproof vest. Another bullet struck the Kevlar-lined shoulder strap on his vest.

    Torres died from a gunshot wound to the face.

    Simonetti added that Starzyk fired the bullet — from his Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle — that fatally wounded Felix Sandoval, who was shot again by an officer when he continued to point his gun at officers and a police dog.

    Torres, an Alhambra High School graduate, was remembered warmly Monday by relatives and her Diablo Valley College students and colleagues, who established a scholarship fund in her name. In addition to being a DVC and St. Mary's College graduate, Torres raised two sons, supporting herself much of time by working at the Elegant Hair Design salon, where the shooting occurred.

    "She died as she lived — a hero," wrote Noah Torres, the youngest of Torres' five siblings, in an e-mail.

    Simonetti hired Starzyk as a reserve officer in 1992. He recalled Starzyk telling him that part of his inspiration for shifting from a career in banking to one in law enforcement came from his work at a Pittsburg soup kitchen.Starzyk found himself serving criminals who had come to eat the free food and prey on other kitchen patrons, Simonetti said.

    "He realized some of the people he was helping weren't the most pleasant people, and thought he could help people in another way," Simonetti said.

    Starzyk, an Antioch resident, is survived by his wife, Shannon, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy; two sons, Vincent, 6, and Jacob, 4; and a 20-month-old daughter, Jessica.

    Starzyk was one of the first responders to reports of a shooting at about 11:35 a.m. near the Elegant Hair Design salon on Pacheco Boulevard and Morello Avenue. Witnesses said Felix Sandoval entered the salon waving a gun and asking about Margarita, who had hidden in a salon restroom.

    Felix Sandoval left the salon, and was confronted outside by his adult daughter, who tried to wrestle away the gun, police said. Sandoval walked upstairs to an apartment where Torres, two women and three children were. The children and one woman hid in a closet. Torres and the other woman hid in the kitchen between the stove and refrigerator, with Torres shielding the woman from sight.

    When Felix Sandoval found Torres, he killed her. Starzyk and another officer were on the scene within minutes.

    Court records show that Margarita Sandoval filed for divorce in August 2007, but the case was held up by issues involving their shared debt and properties, including two homes, the salon and the apartment complex where the shooting occurred. She also filed a restraining order against her husband, an order friends and relatives say he violated on several occasions.

    In the restraining order, Margarita Sandoval testified she had lived in constant fear of her husband during their 25-year marriage, and that Felix Sandoval routinely threatened her and her three children while brandishing firearms.

    One of the conditions of the restraining order was that Felix Sandoval could not have any guns. During one police call for violating the order, police said, officers confiscated ammunition from him. This was a sore point for several relatives at a police news conference Monday.

    "How did he get a gun?" asked Silvia Torres-Limón, Catalina's sister. "Why is my sister dead?"

    A longtime friend of Torres', Diana Hong, said Torres was tireless in her work for domestic-violence victims. She was a onetime victim who recovered and pursued a career in education.

    "She was bold," Hong said. "I was afraid she stood up to him and that's why she got shot."

    Staff writers Matthias Gafni and Lisa White contributed to this story. Reach Robert Salonga at 925-943-8013 or rsalonga@bayareanewsgroup.com. Reach Malaika Fraley at mfraley@bayareanewsgroup.com.

    A memorial fund has been established for Starzyk's wife, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy, and their three young children. Donations can be made by phone at 925-228-7550, Ext. 855, or mailed to Contra Costa Federal Credit Union,Starzyk Family Memorial Fund, Account #57950-00, 1111 Pine St., Martinez, CA 94553. A funeral has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord.
    A scholarship in honor of Catalina Torres has been established at Diablo Valley College. Donations can be made to Diablo Valley College Foundation, 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. The memo line of the check should read "Catalina Torres Scholarship Fund." Afuneral has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at St. Catherine's Church in Martinez.
    The Martinez City Council has canceled its Wednesday meeting and instead, at 7 p.m., will lead a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims at City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.

  2. STAND releases statement on murder of Catalina Torres; Martinez announces vigil and memorial fund for Sgt. Paul Starzyk
    Publication: Halfway to Concord
    September 8, 2008
    STAND Against Domestic Violence released a statement today [http://halfwaytoconcord.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/STAND-Catalina-Torres.pdf] regarding the tragic murder of one of their own, Catalina Torres, who was murdered in Martinez this past weekend by her cousin’s estranged husband.
    Martinez police sergeant, Sgt. Paul Starzyk, 47, also was killed during the incident. The Martinez City Council has canceled its Wednesday meeting and instead, at 7 p.m., will lead a candlelight vigil in Starzyk’s memory at City Hall, 525 Henrietta Street. Martinez officials announced a memorial fund has been established for Starzyk’s wife, a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy, and their three young children. Donations can be made by phone at 925-228-7550 ext. 855 or mailed to Contra Costa Federal Credit Union, Starzyk Family Memorial Fund, Account #57950-00, 1111 Pine Street, Martinez, CA 94553.

  3. Cop-killer allegedly violated restraining order
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Demian Bulwa
    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    (09-08) 20:44 PDT Martinez -- Twice within the past year, Margarita Sandoval complained to Martinez police that her estranged husband, Felix Sandoval, had violated a restraining order and threatened her. And twice, police turned their findings over to Contra Costa County prosecutors, but no charges were filed.

    Now, after Sandoval fatally shot his wife's cousin and a Martinez police sergeant on Saturday, family members want to know why a man who had repeatedly threatened to kill his wife wasn't behind bars.

    A Martinez police officer shot and killed Sandoval after Sandoval shot and killed Catalina Torres, 44, and Martinez police Sgt. Paul Starzyk, 47, during a six-minute rampage that started when he went looking for his wife at her Elegant Hair Design salon, police said.

    "Why is my sister dead?" asked a crying Silvia Torres Limon, Torres' younger sister, as she interrupted a police news conference in Martinez on Monday afternoon. "Why wasn't he in jail? Why couldn't this have been prevented?"

    According to court papers, Felix Sandoval, 49, had threatened his wife for years.

    Family members said he had once been a hardworking laborer and a generous father who bought his two daughters new cars when they turned 16.

    But when he fell and injured his knees and his back while working for a local contractor roughly four years ago, he became depressed and descended into drug and alcohol abuse, relatives said. His marriage further unraveled.

    On July 4, 2007, the couple split up after she told police he had waved a gun at her during an argument. Margarita Sandoval filed for divorce and got a restraining order. But her husband repeatedly violated its terms, relatives said, even showing up at the salon with the dress his wife had worn at their Salinas wedding in 1982 and accusing her of seeing other men.

    In a letter to court officials last August in Contra Costa County, Margarita Sandoval said she needed protection from her husband because "I live in constant fear."

    "At the beginning," she wrote, "I stayed with him because he said he was sorry and promised he was going to change. Later I stayed because he threatened to either abduct the children or kill them. Every time he gets angry while driving he threatens to crash the car."

    Margarita Sandoval said her husband had slapped her before and often made a point of showing her that his guns were loaded.

    "I am tired of living in fear," she wrote.

    The restraining order, which was to be in place until August 2010, required Felix Sandoval to stay 100 yards away from his wife, refrain from harassing and threatening her, and turn in or sell all of his guns.

    Martinez investigators said they, along with federal firearms regulators, are looking into how Sandoval acquired the .38-caliber revolver he used to kill Torres and Starzyk.

    Police Chief Tom Simonetti said in an interview that his officers took three reports in connection with Felix Sandoval.

    In November, he said, Margarita Sandoval reported receiving telephone threats from her husband. Officers took a report, did not make an arrest and turned in their findings to prosecutors, but no charges were filed.

    Then in March, Simonetti said, Margarita Sandoval said her husband called from his native Mexico to threaten her. Again, officers took a report and turned over their findings to prosecutors, but no charges were filed.

    Finally, in July, Felix Sandoval was arrested on suspicion of violating the restraining order by visiting the salon on Pacheco Boulevard as well as on suspicion of being high on methamphetamines, Simonetti said.

    Sandoval, who had a single bullet on him at the time, paid cash to bail himself out of jail. Simonetti said charges had been pending the results of a toxicology test.

    Simonetti said his department had responded appropriately to the reports. He and Torres' younger sister, Limon, met for more than a half-hour after the news conference to talk about the case.

    Reached at home late Monday evening, Contra Costa County District Attorney Robert Kochly declined to comment. Kochly said he did not have information on the case in front of him and would have to look into the case today.

    Also Monday, authorities released further information about Saturday's incident, which was first reported at 11:35 a.m. at a complex of shops and homes owned by the Sandovals.

    Felix Sandoval tried to find his wife at her hair salon, police and witnesses said, but she hid in a locked bathroom with a manicurist and a customer. Sandoval then followed Torres - a hairstylist at the salon who also volunteered with a battered women's group - and another customer to an apartment behind the salon, where they sought help from a female tenant who had three young children.

    Sandoval shot and kicked in the front door, police said, before he shot Torres in the face as she crouched between a refrigerator and a stove, shielding the apartment's tenant from danger.

    Sandoval shot Starzyk moments later in the chest - just above his bulletproof vest - as he and another officer prepared to charge into the apartment. Sandoval, police said, took a blind shot at the officers from behind a door. A third officer arrived and fatally shot Sandoval, police said.

    Chief Simonetti revealed that a search of Sandoval's body turned up more bullets in his pocket.
    Funeral services

    Sgt. Paul Starzyk: A service will be held at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, at 11 a.m. Thursday.

    Catalina Torres: A service will be held at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Martinez, 1125 Ferry St., at 2 p.m. Friday.

    Chronicle staff writer Marisa Lagos contributed to this report. E-mail Demian Bulwa at dbulwa@sfchronicle.com.


  4. do not know if im related to paul I too am a starzyk sorry for your loss god bless


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