On March 16, 2000, SWAT Officer Villalobos and other LAPD SWAT officers were conducting training exercises at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego County. The Los Angeles Times described the bizarre accident that caused his death this way, “[Officer Villalobos] was doing what the department calls advanced training at Camp Pendleton, the Marine base, observing a live-fire drill at a “shooting house”–a staged setting that trains police officers to enter an unknown situation and to expect the unexpected. It’s the kind of exercise where a flash grenade might go off suddenly, or where a series of Shoot/Don’t Shoot targets might appear, just to test an officer’s reflexes. Villalobos, 52, was about to take a seat on a catwalk, 10 feet off the ground, when apparently he reached back to brace himself, lost his balance and fell. He suffered serious head trauma.” He was taken to the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla where he died the following night.
Officer Villalobos was a 30-year LAPD veteran. He was a SWAT team member since 1983 and in 1999 was voted LAPD SWAT officer of the year. He earned a Medal of Valor for his part in the rescue attempt of a Glendale police officer who, along with his partner Officer Charles Lazzaretto, was ambushed on May 28, 1997. Lazzaretto was killed prior to the arrival of LAPD SWAT officers.
Officer Villalobos served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. In 1967, he survived a fierce battle with the North Vietnamese that cost the lives of most of his unit. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.
He was survived by his three daughters and son.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, LAPD Online