Former Manteca police officer John Moody violated the constitutional rights of an arrestee by ignoring her objections to a blood draw at Manteca hospital and misrepresenting what happened in a search warrant affidavit and to his superiors, according to his final notice of discipline released by the City of Manteca on Wednesday.
Moody’s employment with the City of Manteca was terminated after more than 20 years on the job on March 29. Moody was the officer that fatally shot Ernest Duenez Jr. on June 8, 2011.
According to the 16-page document signed by former Acting Police Chief Mike Harden who is now the interim city manager, Moody violated no less than seven policies in the lead-up to the incident – which occurred on September 18, 2020 – and the subsequent follow-up and investigation into his actions as a police officer.
The redacted document released on Wednesday details the findings of an internal affairs investigation conducted by an independent legal firm and the review of those of findings by then Captain Mike Aguilar – who is currently serving in his second stint as Manteca’s Interim Police Chief following Harden’s contracted departure.
While the DUI suspect in the case appears to have initially consented to a blood draw and taken to Doctor’s Hospital of Manteca to carry out the medical procedure, body camera footage shows that the suspect revoked their consent no less than four times and was ignored before being held down by Moody and another officer.
That officer – Ryan Smith – then told his superior officer, Sergeant Mitch Ellis, that he felt that Moody should have obtained a search warrant prior to drawing the blood.
“The body worn camera footage shows clearly that (redacted) objected to the blood draw on multiple occasions and not just at the time that the needle entered her arm with the blood draw occurring while she was handcuffed and bent over a hospital gurney,” Harden said in the notice of discipline. “By any objective evaluation of the facts in this case, it is clear to me that the blood draw was a forced blood draw and in violation of the law and department policy.”
In his final notice to Moody, Harden – the former Modesto Police that retired in 2012 before assisting the cities of Escalon, Oakdale, and Sonora as an Interim Police Chief – pulled no punches about Moody’s conduct or the attempt to cover-up said behavior when it became apparent that an investigation would be forthcoming.
“I am not obligated or required to keep a police officer employed who has been untruthful, who has violated the constitutional rights of an arrestee, who misled or distorted the facts of the case to a supervisor or in writing (report and search warrant affidavit), who ignored an arrestee’s refusal for the consensual blood draw and who claims that the arrestee was making the objection to the blood draw to the registered nurse and not to you,” Harden said. “You lack the very basic understanding that the Fourth Amendment in the US Constitution protects persons from unreasonable searches by the government when you told the investigator that the arrestee’s objections were to the nurse and not directed or intended for you defies logic and common-sense reasoning.
“You also suggested to the internal affairs investigator that the judge who approved of a search warrant (after the blood draw) could have viewed your body worn camera footage is disingenuous and a fact you know to be false.”
Harden went on to point out that he had been concerned about Moody’s “judgement and decision-making” in the weeks following the incident – prompting him to pull Moody from the Acting Watch Commander program and counsel him on what he saw as potentially problematic behavior from the veteran officer.
A documented disciplinary action was placed in Moody’s personnel folder on October 14 – less than a month after the blood draw incident at Doctor’s Hospital of Manteca.
“I had previously removed you from the Acting Watch Commander program when your judgement and decision-making was called into question,” Harden wrote. “At that time, I explained to you that I was concerned about your decision-making and judgement and yet just several weeks later you once again made a very poor and significant decision that exposed the City of Manteca to an unreasonable legal liability solely because of your conduct and application of the law and department policy.
“You further exacerbated that misconduct by providing false and/or misleading information to your supervisor and in your report and search warrant application.”
The investigation determined that Moody told Ellis that the arrestee didn’t withdraw her consent until the needle was entering her arm, and the completed report and search warrant affidavit – that was signed by a judge only after the blood had been procured – did not tell the entire story, according to Harden’s letter.
Harden’s determination was to affirm the allegations against Moody, and in doing so he criticized the longtime officer for choosing to behave in a way that reflected poorly on his fellow officers.
“I find that the allegations against you are SUSTAINED and they are serious enough in nature that it reflects quite unfavorably on our entire department and harms our collective reputation,” Harden wrote. “The ethical integrity of the leadership and entire personnel of the Manteca Police Department stand to be harshly scrutinized and condemned based upon your conduct.
“I’m left with no alternative other than to terminate your employment with the City of Manteca effective Monday March 29, 2021.”
Harden’s letter makes mention of Moody’s legal counsel but attempts to identify and contact that counsel and Moody for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday night.
A complicated past
Moody was cleared of any wrongdoing in the June 8, 2011 shooting of Ernest Duenez Jr., but that incident jumpstarted a local movement for police accountability spurred by Duenez’ family.
After retaining the Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris, the family was able to successfully settle with the City of Manteca in April of 2014 for $2.2 million – with the City of Manteca maintaining at the time that Moody had acted appropriately and never admitting to any wrongdoing on the part of the officer.
Then San Joaquin County District Attorney James Willett ruled that the shooting of Duenez – who had reportedly made violent threats against his significant other, and who was, according to an expert review of the dash cam footage from Moody’s patrol car, holding a knife in his hand as he attempted to exit the vehicle – was justified.
But the news that Moody was terminated for violating the civil rights of somebody he was taking into custody has opened new wounds for the Duenez family – especially since that news comes less than one week into the 10-year anniversary of the death of their loved one.
“We have been trying for 10 years to reveal that Moody is a pathological liar, corrupt, and abuses his authority with his excessive use of force,” Justice for Ernest Duenez Jr. said in a statement. “We will continue to hold him accountable for the murder of Ernest and from being a police officer anywhere else so no other family will have to suffer at the hands of his abuse.
“We strongly urge any of his other victims to please come forward.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.