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Harassment: Duenez family say it is, police contend it isnt
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Rosemary Duenez believes citing family members for placing a poster labeling an officer “a murderer” for the death of her son Ernesto Duenez Jr. on a tree across from the Civic Center constitutes harassment by Manteca Police.

She also contends her son Gabe Duenez is being harassed as well as her adolescent grandkids in the aftermath of the June 8 shooting by Officer John Moody during a traffic stop. Her son was cited for having a sports team plate where his front license plate should be while the grandchildren – ages 5 and 7 – were filmed by a Manteca Police officer during that traffic stop.

“What is the purpose of that?” she asked rhetorically of the filming of her grandkids.

Rosemary Duenez took her complaints to the City Council Tuesday where she spoke under citizen comments. Council members did not comment.

Acting Police Chief John Orcutt after the meeting responded to queries made about the harassment charges.

Orcutt confirmed a citation was issued for the illegal posting of a sign on a city tree. While Rosemary Duenez contended police never enforce that law, Orcutt said that is not the case.

He noted there have been cases - relatively few though – where police have cited people over the years when they caught them in the act.

“They (the sign posting) were in plain sight of the department,” Orcutt said.

Duenez family members and supporters are picketing the Manteca Police Department on bordering streets every Thursday.

As for an officer filming of the traffic stop - including the grandkids in the car - Orcutt noted it was simply to have a video recording of the encounter to make sure everything was kept on the “up and up.” Rosemary Duenez indicated during her remarks to the council that her 14-year-old grandson was videotaping police officers during the traffic stop “for his own protection.”

Orcutt said the videotaping by police was no different than dashboard video equipment in patrol cars or the uniform cams that departments such as San Jose are now issuing police officers that are designed to provide independent verification of encounters between police and the public.

It is such a dash video from Moody’s patrol unit that family members claim shows that the shooting was unjustified. Police, for their part, have said the footage will clear Moody of any wrong doing.

The video has been released to the family and their attorney but a court order prevents them from showing it to anyone else although they can describe what they see in it.

Rosemary Duenez noted that she has been driving around for years without a front license plate. She added she understands it is illegal but pointed out that you see vehicles every day in Manteca that violate state law requiring license plates both the front and rear bumpers of cars. California is one of the few states with such a requirement.

She vowed to continue to keep coming back to council meetings as well as man weekly picket lines outside the department.

“I want it to be known that there was injustice in Manteca for my son,” she said.

The victim’s sister-in-law Cynthia Duenez asked council members why Moody was still patrolling the streets. She also inferred that family supporters will work to defeat the council members for not taking action to remove Moody. Council members Steve DeBrum and Debby Moorhead are up for re-election in November 2012.

She also told council members that she wanted Moody “prosecuted” for her brother-in-law’s death.

Ernest Duenez Sr. said during one incident he had to step between officers and his son Gabe after he said they tried to intimidate his son.

The victim’s father, who said he has dealt with bullies all his life, said “now I have to fight bullies with badges.”

He singled out Lt. Nick Obligacion and Sgt. Lewis Clark for “harassing” his son. He added that he knows of many Manteca Police officers who said are professional and treat people with dignity.

Relatives of Ernesto Duenez Jr. are suing the City of Manteca, retired Police Chief Dave Bricker, and Moody for $25 million in what they are framing as an unjustified shooting employing excessive force.

The suit contends the City of Manteca’s “failure to reasonably train their police officers in the proper and reasonable use of force” led to Duenez’s death.

Manteca Police – prior to the city’s legal counsel clamping down on the case being discussed due to the lawsuit – indicated Duenez had made a threatening movement out of the pickup truck toward the officer.

Bricker has indicated previously that once the DA’s investigation is complete it will underscore his department’s position that Moody acted properly.