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Slain Auburn Officer Was Shot In The Back; Killer Called Daughter To Say 'Sorry'

AUBURN (CBS) – A newly-filed search warrant reveals details leading to the death of Auburn police officer Ronald Tarentino, allegedly at the hands of career criminal Jorge Zambrano.

The warrant says "Officers found Tarentino seated in his cruiser bleeding from at least two gunshot wounds."

Read: Woman Witnessed Jorge Zambrano's Violence Months Before He Killed Auburn Officer

It also indicates that officers found five spent shell casings at the shooting scene.

Sources tell WBZ-TV the bullets came from a stolen gun. WBZ has also learned the fatal shot hit Tarentino in the back between his belt and bullet-proof vest.

Officer Ronald Tarentino
Officer Ronald Tarentino. (Photo credit: Auburn Police Department)

Neighbors told police they had seen Zambrano in the area of the shooting previously, and that they believed he had been selling crack there.

Zambrano had been at his girlfriend Heather Philip's home Saturday night, the search warrant indicates. Neighbors there told police they heard arguing and a thud.

Why was Zambrano free to roam the streets? His defense attorney, Anthony Scola, said "I have no comment," while shutting his office door.

In audio tapes from a court hearing two months ago, a judge is heard sternly questioning Zambrano in Worcester Court.

"You struck or put your hands on a police officer without any justification, intentionally, and you resisted arrest. You tried to get away from him and in the process you may have put him in some jeopardy of injury, right?"

"Yes," answers Zambrano, who had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from pulling an officer into his car with a pit bull inside.

An attorney is heard saying the officer himself thinks Zambrano needs help instead of jail time. The judge is then heard releasing him.

"Alright this is agreed upon. I'll do it. You understand that you're going to be on probation now for a year?" the judge says.

Jorge Zambrano
Jorge Zambrano (Image credit: Auburn Police)

It took less than two months for Zambrano to be caught again, this time for driving with switched plates and a suspended license.

In audio from the arraignment Monday, May 16, Zambrano is told, "You will be released on personal recognizance."

Six days later, police say Zambrano killed Officer Tarentino. The search warrant says he called his young daughter at around the same time saying he "Was sorry and wishes that he had been there for her."

Wednesday night, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey released a statement saying it will review Zambrano's cases. A report will likely be released in mid-June.

The judges who decided Jorge Zambrano's cases are highly competent  judges with a combined nearly 50 years of judicial experience. In response to these tragic circumstances, a preliminary review of their court decisions indicates that no law, court rule or court procedure was violated. The Trial Court is conducting a full and thorough examination of all of Jorge Zambrano's interfaces with the court system, including the Probation Service. The materials being collected and reviewed include all court and probation files, records, and hearing tapes dating back to Jorge Zambrano's first involvement with the court system. There are many years of material to be reviewed, and the review is a major priority for the Trial Court.  

Retired Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein said in an interview with WBZ-TV he cautions against blaming judges.

"Frankly the judge was doing the best he could under the circumstances," he said. "When the public hears that tape, they're hearing that one tape. A judge is hearing dozens and dozens of cases, and in an urban court, dozens and dozens of serious cases."

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