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DA: Shooting legally justified
Investigation of fatal encounter between Duenez & Officer Moody
Protestors in June marked the one-year anniversary of Ernesto Duenez Jr.s death by marching down Yosemite Avenue behind a banner of a photo of the shooting victim and his young son. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The Manteca Police officer involved shooting death of Ernesto Duenez, Jr., 35, on June 8, 2011 has been declared as being “legally justified” by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.

 The formal online press release on Monday was the result of a joint investigation that centered on witness statements, forensics, evidence collected at the shooting scene in the 200 block of Flores Avenue, and a dashboard video recording from Patrolman John Moody’s patrol unit.

The Critical Incident Protocol of the shooting confrontation between Moody and Duenez partially based its conclusion on a series of 52 frames recorded by the Coban-Topcam audio/video dash camera system from the officer’s patrol car that used forensic video analysis to reportedly identify a knife in the suspect’s hand.

The video has not been released for public viewing.

The video is recorded and plays back at a rate of 30 images per second.  As a result, a new image is produced every 33 milliseconds.  The times of the photographs are within the limitations of the image refresh rate of 33 milliseconds in accuracy.

Emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene in less than seven minutes of the last shot, the report indicated. 

Each of the officer’s 14 shots fired in still video frames were enhanced and included in the analysis taken from the 214 images logged from the patrol car at the crime scene.  An additional 37 case photographs were taken at the scene and one photo of a “Fred Carter” knife.

The video was analyzed by Grant Fredericks of the Forensic Video Solutions, Inc.  Fredericks is the digital video advisor to the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its in-car video project and for its Digital Interview Room Standards project, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The narrative in the report included more than four dozen photographs taken from the video that began recording at 6:42.20 p.m. as the small pickup truck with Duenez in the rear jump seat rounded the corner of the 1100 block of East North Street and onto the 200 block of Flores Avenue.  From that first time stamp on the photos until the officer reacted to the alleged life and death threat he had perceived and resorted to deadly force as Duenez exited the vehicle, 32 seconds had elapsed.

The Duenez family has consistently argued and demonstrated at city hall against the police and the city that their brother, son, and father had been murdered by the officer.  They contended that he didn’t have a weapon when he was shot by the officer in early June and that his foot had been entangled in the passenger’s seat belt.

The investigation was jointly conducted by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Investigation Unit, the Manteca Police Department and the California Department of Justice.

In a summary of the investigation, officers of the Manteca Police Department had been looking for Ernest Manuel Duenez as a parolee at large as a primary suspect in an earlier domestic disturbance that afternoon.  Duenez was reportedly known to have been hiding in the back jump seat of a blue extended cab pickup truck and possibly armed with a throwing knife.

The truck had previously been associated with the Flores Avenue address where his wife lived.  With that information Moody positioned his patrol car north of that location waiting for Duenez to arrive.  The report states that it was about 6:45 p.m. when Moody saw the pickup pull up and park on the lawn near the north wall of that residence.

The officer reportedly pulled his marked patrol car into the curb behind the pickup truck that had pulled onto the lawn of the residence and turned on his emergency lights.

 The video shows movement in the vehicle as the front passenger door of the pickup opens up and the officer yells, “Hands up.”  Duenez then rises up to the open passenger door as Moody yells out again, “Hands up Ernie.”  As Duenez is seen moving toward the open passenger door, Officer Moody once again yells, “Don’t you move.”  Continuing to move his position toward the pickup, the officer shouts a fourth time, “Ernie, don’t you move or I’ll shoot you.”

The video shows that Moody is off screen, but his shadow can be seen on the tailgate of the truck less than 10 feet in front of his police car and he has his gun drawn.  As Duenez continues to move out of the passenger door of the pickup, Moody is coming around the front of his patrol unit in camera view while attempting to holster his weapon.

Moody yells once again, “Hands up.”  Duenez is seen getting his torso out of the pickup as the officer again reaches for his weapon.  At that point a knife can be seen in the suspect’s right hand and Officer Moody shouts, “Now.”

The police video shows Duenez has braced his right hand on the cab of the pickup and his left hand on the window frame of the opened passenger door.  A knife is clearly visible in his right hand.  A knife sheath is also visible on the man’s waist.

At 6:42.51 seconds the officer commands, “Drop the knife now.”

Duenez then jumps toward the ground and turns his body into the pickup, reaching forward and downward with his left hand as Moody fires the first shot within less than a second.  The officer fires the remainder of his shots within 4.2 seconds.

It is the opinion of the video analyst that Duenez had a knife in his right hand as he got out of the pickup.  He said that shot number three was fired and it appeared to hit Duenez as the knife fell toward the back of the pickup.  It was noted that a knife was later found at the rear of the pickup bed and it was consistent with the knife observed in the video footage. The knife was determined in lab tests to contain Duenez’s DNA on its surface.   

A crack pipe was taken from the man’s right front pocket and a knife sheath from his belt, the report indicated.

Duenez had an extensive criminal history, according to the district attorney’s report.  From 1996 to 2009 that included nine felonies, and 48 months in prison between 1997 and 2001.  In 2004 he was sentenced to an additional four-year prison term.

Moody reportedly told investigators that he had started his shift at 11:30 a.m.   In briefing he was made aware that Duenez was a parolee at large and should be considered armed and dangerous.  He noted that various attempts were made throughout the day to locate Duenez without success. 

Earlier in the day, police dispatchers had informed their officers on the street of a call at 6:05 a.m. in the 400 block of Ribier Court where Duenez had been suspected of taking a sword and sticking it into a screen at a residence.  It was reported and further dispatched to patrol units that a man involved in a disturbance at that address was carrying a knife and was known to carry a gun.

At 5:18 p.m. a citizen reported a domestic disturbance near the intersection of Pillsbury Road and Woodward Avenue.  A second reporting party called police and reported that a man involved in the disturbance had a knife and was also known to carry a hand gun.  It was noted that no police report was generated by the call as the parties were gone upon arrival of officers.

Moody said he was made aware of Duenez being involved in the domestic dispute on Pillsbury Road and that the suspect was armed with a knife, last seen lying down in the back jump seat of a light blue pickup truck.  That is when the officer drove to the area of the Flores Street residence and waited for Duenez to appear.

The report noted that the officer recalled in his training that a suspect with a knife could run 21 feet in three seconds and fatally wound an officer.  Moody said he was well within 21 feet of Duenez when the suspect jumped out of the truck that was less than 10 feet ahead of his police cruiser.