Vargas: Every officer brings a gun to a fistfight


Oxnard Police Officer Daniel Oncea ended up in a life or death struggle on July 29 with a suspect he was trying to take into custody. Ultimately, he ended up having to shoot the suspect, who ran to his nearby home and barricaded himself inside only to surrender later.

Oxnard Police Department investigators were able to locate surveillance footage from a neighbors camera that captured the struggle. The department released the footage.

According to the Oxnard Police Department, Oncea was in a mobile home park searching for Joel Tapia Jr. Apparently Tapia was a frequent customer, known to the police and wanted.

Oncea saw Tapia and tried to detain him while waiting for back-up officers. But Tapia wasn’t having anything to do with it. He immediately began to resist Oncea and they go to the ground, engaging in over two minutes of heart-pounding wrestling and ground fighting. For those who have never experienced being in a wrestling match, that is a long time and wrestling is physically taxing.

Family members rushed outside and of course their first reaction is to yell at the officer and pull out a cell phone camera. At no time does any bystander try to assist the officer.

Ultimately, with Tapia on top punching at him and with his service weapon now loose on the ground, the officer decides to regain control of his weapon and shoot.

Tapia runs into his residence and barricades himself inside. The SWAT team and negotiators respond and he is eventually taken into custody. He suffers a gunshot wound to his arm and Oncea suffers on minor injuries.

In a Facebook post, Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites stated, “Overall, the video clearly illustrates the dangers of police work. There are those that who will not only resist our officers from taking them into custody, but there are some who will actively assault an officer to the point where they escalate a situation to a shooting. When a suspect engages in assaultive behavior and reaches for the officer’s holster or weapon, the stakes of the encounter are immediately raised to a life-threatening event.”

The lesson here is every officer brings a gun to a fistfight. If he loses that fight, he potentially loses his life. Oncea survived to spend another day with his loved ones and family. He risked everything to ensure justice was served. Yet a crowd of people just watched and recorded it to capture what I have to assume they felt was police misconduct.

Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at