In the early morning hours of March 13, 1996, Oxnard SWAT Officer James Rex Jensen, Jr. died when struck by friendly fire during a high risk warrant service. In law enforcement there is no worse cause of a peace officer’s death for it elevates the already high emotional toll the death of any lawman has on his partners and family. In this case the emotional consequences were elevated even higher because the officer who fired the fatal rounds was Officer Jensen’s good friend and mentor.
The warrant service where Officer Jensen died was one of sixteen which took place across western Ventura County that day. The intention was to disrupt a major drug ring dealing in cocaine and methamphetamine. Jensen’s mission at the location assigned to his team: toss flashbang grenades into the empty hallway of a condominium where three armed suspects purportedly lived. Something went terribly wrong in the smoky environment left behind in the aftermath of the flashbang explosion and the team leader fired three shotgun rounds which killed Officer Jensen.
Oxnard Chief of Police Harold Hurtt later stated, “This was mistaken identity by the officer involved. We not have much of a margin for error… I understand the business we’re in… but that doesn’t make it any less traumatic… We are traumatized.”
Officer Jensen joined the Oxnard Police Department in April of 1992 after serving for three years with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. His interest in law enforcement began when he served four years as a military police officer with the Marine Corps. The respect he quickly earned from his partners and supervisors at the Oxnard PD landed him a position on the department’s SWAT team by July 1995.
Officer Jim Jensen, 30, was survived by his wife, Jennifer, and his two daughters; Katie, 3, and Lindsay, 5.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Oxnard Police Department