Killer of SDPD Officer in 1978 is Granted Parole

Killer of SDPD Officer in 1978 is Granted Parole

Created: 25 June, 2020
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Arturo Castañares                                    EN ESPAÑOL

A convicted murderer that gunned down a San Diego Police officer during a 1978 traffic stop was granted parole today on his 18th parole hearing despite opposition from San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.

The convict, Jesus Cecena, 59, was only 17 when he was pulled over for a traffic violation in the Skyline neighborhood of San Diego.

When officer Archie Buggs, 30, approached the car, Cecena jumped out and shot him five times, then stood over the wounded officer and fired a final shot to his head. Officer Buggs died on the street with his hand still on his holstered service revolver.

“We are deeply disappointed that the killer of one of San Diego’s finest officers was granted parole,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said after the hearing. “This crime impacted the entire San Diego community and caused great pain for the family of Officer Archie Buggs,” she added.

Cecena was originally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1979, but in 1982 it was changed to seven years to life with the possibility of parole.

He was denied parole 13 times, and granted parole in 2014, 2015, and 2017, but each time the parole board’s decision was reversed by Governor Jerry Brown.  Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom reversed a similar parole board decision. This latest parole decision will be reviewed by Governor Newsom and could be upheld or reversed.

“We are hopeful that Governor Newsom will review this Parole grant and reverse it once again to keep this killer incarcerated,” Stephan added.

Officer Buggs, who was African-American, had been a San Diego Police officer for four years at the time of the shooting and was a Vietnam war veteran. He was engaged to be married the following month.

Buggs patrol partner was another young officer named Jesse Navarro, one of the few Latino officers on the force at the time.

Navarro responded to police radio calls of shots fired and an office down in Skyline, and he arrived to find his partner dying in the street.

“Upon arrival, I observed Archie’s patrol vehicle stopped on the street with the engine running and my partner Archie laying on the street bleeding from a gun shot wound,” Navarro recalls about that tragic night of November 4, 1978. “I believe that his last words to me were ‘take care of my family’.”

Navarro continued as an SDPD officer for several years after the shooting, and later served as a community liaison for both District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Summer Stephan before retiring last year.

Buggs’ family, the San Diego Police Officers’ Association, and others submitted letters to the Parole Board urging them to deny Cecena’s parole. They argue that Cecena has never accepted responsibility for his actions and continues to minimize the factors that led him to murder a police officer. Cecena has also received more than 10 violation reports for misconduct while in prison.

Under Constitutional provisions added by statewide Proposition 89 in 1988, Governors in California have up to 30 days to approve, modify, or reverse any parole decision.

After years of dedicated work by Jesse Navarro, the City named the police substation in Skyline in honor of Officer Buggs in 2017, the City’s only police station to be named for a person.