The capital murder defendant accused of killing a Mobile Police officer last January is asking a judge to set a hearing so his attorneys can prove he was acting in self-defense and shouldn’t face prosecution.
Marco Perez, 20, was arrested Jan. 20, 2019 — the same day he allegedly shot and killed MPD Officer Sean Tuder at a West Mobile apartment complex. Perez was indicted for capital murder in connection with Tuder’s death last September, but his attorneys, Dennis Knizley and Jason Darley, argue he didn’t know Tuder was a cop at the time of the shooting because Tuder was in civilian clothes and driving an unmarked car.
As police have confirmed, Tuder was not scheduled to work on the day of his fatal encounter with Perez, but was granted permission to pursue a lead from a confidential informant that Perez was at her apartment. Previous testimony has indicated the informant convinced Perez she was arranging for a relative to pick him up there, but she was actually setting him up in coordination with Tuder.
At the time, investigators had spent weeks searching for Perez, who was on the run from outstanding warrants on federal gun charges as well as probation violations and other pending offenses in state court.
No long before that, Perez and his mother, Tiffany Perez, had been charged with filing a false report after she went to police claiming Marco was missing and had possibly been kidnapped. She was initially arrested, but her charges in Mobile Municipal Court were dropped last month without explanation.
Perez, who has pleaded not guilty to capital murder, is currently scheduled to stand trial in August. He previously sought to be tried as a juvenile, but that attempt was denied by the court.
This week, Perez’s attorneys filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Ben Brooks to set a pre-trial evidentiary hearing on whether their client should stand trial at all. In the motion, Kizley and Darley recap some what they say happened before the shooting took place and what Perez may have been thinking at the time.
“When Perez saw the non-police private vehicle, he approached the vehicle on the passenger to get in his expected ride. As Perez approached the vehicle, Tuder exited his private vehicle and immediately drew a firearm,” the filing reads. “Perez reacted immediately by raising his hands and backing up. At this point, Tuder grabbed Perez and forced him to the hood or side of the private vehicle where a struggle ensued.”
Citing witnesses testimony from a previous hearing in the case, the defense claims, “Tuder never identified himself as a law enforcement officer” as he was confronting Perez. The only thing identifying Tuder as an officer visually would have been his badge. However, Knizley and Darley have theorized that it was on his belt and could have been covered by the coat he was wearing at the time.
Some of the early parts of the altercation were reportedly captured on five surveillance cameras at the apartment complex, but testimony from officers has indicated the actual shooting took place out of frame. None of the cameras recorded audio, and Tuder — out of uniform — wasn’t wearing a body cam.
The prosecution, which is being personally led by Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, has aggressively rejected the contention Perez had been on the run from police for several weeks and was taken steps to avoid capture, but didn’t realize Tuder was a police officer before fatally shooting him.
That said, the MPD has previously said that, while Tuder was “familiar” with Perez because he was part of the team investigating his case, there was no evidence to suggest they’d had “direct contact” before.
No date has been set for the requested evidentiary hearing, but it appears Perez’s defense team is continuing to see for the case they’re attempting to make.
On the same day, the filed a motion seeking key pieces of evidence the state as well as the MPD: including Tuder’s personnel file and any materials dealing with department’s policies or protocols “relating to an off-duty officer making an arrest.”
They’ve also requested that the state turn over any information in its possession about a previous incident Tuder was involved in when he was an officer for the Palatka Police Department in Florida. According to reports from the time, Tuder shot a 15-year-old suspect who allegedly pointed a shotgun at him in 2015.
He and another officer were responding to a burglary call in Palatka. The teen survived and was arrested. It doesn’t appear Tuder faced any disciplinary action. It’s unclear at this point what information, if any, state prosecutors would have about another state’s investigation or why Perez is seeking it.
Because Brooks placed a gag order on the case, it’s likely to remain unclear until the next public hearing.
Because Perez was charged with multiple crimes when he was arrested following Tuder’s death, his defense attorneys have also asked that court process those separately from the capital murder charge.
If granted, Perez would face pending charges for receiving stolen property, theft of a motor vehicle, unlawful breaking and entering into a motor vehicle and theft of a firearm after his capital murder charge is resolved.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here