PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The Palm Springs police department is teaming up with the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center to create a new program geared to protect Marines. The security liaison program puts two Marine officers inside of the PSPD downtown office every weekend. "Provide safeguard and health to the welfare of our Marines and sailors, so they can continue their duties, when they return back to base," said Staff Sergeant Juan Galvan.
Every weekend for the last month and for now on the liaisons will respond with police if a problem involving a Marine occurs. "If they're needing to be arrested, they will be arrested," said Lieutenant Mike Kovaleff from the Palm Springs police department. "But a lot of time, these incidents, where they're not ultimately to a criminal level, they can be best handled by the personnel up at the Marine base."
If it's a minor offense, the liaisons will take the Marine back to Twentynine Palms for disciplinary actions there. Lieutenant Kovaleff says issues involving Marines are down from last year, due in large part to education and orders from the base. "There are places that are off limits to the Marines themselves, so the Marines, they've been advised, they've been briefed not to go to these areas," said Staff Sergeant Galvan.
He says in Palm Springs, those areas are NYPD Pizza and the Village Pub, the bar directly next to the parking structure where a Marine was shot and killed by Palm Springs police officers.
Just as the bars began to close around 1:30AM on Saturday, November 10, 2012, two police officers on bicycles investigated yelling inside the structure at Baristo and South Palm Canyon. The department says 22-year-old Marine corporal Allan Devillena II, stationed in Twentynine Palms, refused an order to turn off his car. According to police, an officer tried to climb in the passenger side window to stop the car. When Devillena accelerated, police say the car hit the second officer with the first still hanging out the window. That's when police opened fire. Devillena was shot six times and died. At a vigil held at the structure days later, his family cried out for justice. "It's not fair," said Aaron Olguin, his brother at the vigil. "He was robbed of his plans, his dreams, everything."
This, and other run-ins between U.S. Marines and PSPD sparked a conversation and an idea. More than a year later, that idea became a reality. The idea behind the program is to keep things like that from happening again. "We want them to have fun, but most importantly, we want them to have fun safely, and this program is just another tool to make sure that they have a safe time in Palm Springs."
The question, in retrospect, could this program prevent that deadly night in the parking structure a year and a half ago? "This program could have played a role, it could not have played a role, it's really unfair to make that assessment at this time," said Lt. Kovaleff.
The Riverside County District Attorney's office continues to investigate the case. His family filed a lawsuit against the police department that is currently on hold until the investigation is over.