STOCKTON — The chemotherapy that Melecio Arquines endured to treat his leukemia meant he would never be able to have his own children.
Instead, he became a father figure to four younger brothers and sisters.
“If we were hurt, he’d always want to find out what happened,” said his sister, Edith Arquines Reyes. “Anytime we needed help, he was there.”
And so it still hurts, more than nine years after the brother they knew as “Junior” was shot and killed by Stockton police in a sequence of quick events that proved tragic. The situation is not made any easier by the fact that a civil lawsuit brought by Arquines’ widow was delayed in part by the city’s past bankruptcy, and has not yet been resolved.
“We were supposed to celebrate our birthdays together because we’re both December boys,” said younger brother Ray Arquines. “I still hurt. Every December, I still hurt.”
Melecio Arquines lived with his wife, Jovy Tarangco, in a small detached apartment behind the Arquines family’s longtime home on Sutter Street in south Stockton. They’d been married for three years, and he had just turned 30 years old.
The couple was sleeping about 2 a.m. on Dec. 10, 2008, when Arquines evidently heard a scuffle outside, in the backyard.
It was the police, attempting to arrest a 16-year-old auto theft suspect after a foot chase through the neighborhood.
Arquines didn’t know that, his family said. He took his gun, equipped with a laser beam, and opened the door to investigate the strange noises coming from the darkness of his own backyard
According to court documents, Officer John Hernandez heard the door open, turned and saw the red laser beam coming from the doorway. Knowing that laser beams are used as aiming devices for handguns, the officer turned on his flashlight and saw Arquines with a gun, according to the officer’s sworn deposition. When the laser beam settled on another officer, Hernandez, fearful that his colleague was about to be shot, fired twice.
“The three officers … were subjected to an immediate threat of a deadly attack on them by the gunman, and Officer Hernandez responded to that threat by engaging the gunman with deadly force in self-defense and the defense of his fellow officers,” Deputy City Attorney James F. Wilson wrote in 2016.
The shooting was a “split-second decision,” he wrote.
At some point, according to documents, Hernandez said, “He’s got a gun,” though it’s unclear exactly when he said it.
To this day, the family blames police for not announcing their arrival in the backyard, among other things. “I think if they would have addressed who they were, he (Arquines) for sure would not have pulled his gun out,” said Arquines’ sister-in-law, Veronica Arquines. “Living on the south side of Stockton, that’s why you have your gun — for protection.”
The Police Department declined to comment this week, citing the pending litigation.
Tarangco’s attorney, Peter Manion, also declined to comment.
Melecio Arquines had been working at the Orchard Supply Hardware distribution center in Tracy. He was working to earn enough money so that the couple could afford their own place, his family said.
The family has long since demolished the old apartment. Near where it once stood, a simple wooden cross has been planted in a garden.
Settlement discussions have been underway, according to court records. A trial date has tentatively been set for April 9.