In seven days, a year will have passed since a Manteca Police officer shot and killed Ernesto Duenez in the driveway of a Flores Avenue home.
And it may take at least another 60 days for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office to determine whether the shooting was justified.
San Joaquin County DA James Willett this week confirmed footage taken from the dashboard camera mounted in a Manteca Police patrol unit that recorded the June 8 confrontation and subsequent shooting has been sent off to a professional lab for enhancement.
Willett said he expects to wrap up the investigation “in a couple of months.”
The video is being cited by both attorneys for Deunez’ family and the Manteca Police as confirming their respective sides of what happened that June evening almost a year ago.
Duenez’ attorney contends the 34-year-old was unarmed at the time he was shot by Manteca Police officer Josh Moody. Oakland-based attorney John Burris in filings has indicated the video - of which he has seen - shows Deunez falling forward when he caught his right foot tangled in the seat belt of the pickup he was in that was in the driveway. An object reportedly videotaped flying from Duenez’s hand was a marijuana pipe.
Police contend the video shows Duenez moving toward Moody in a threatening manner after he was repeatedly told not to advance. Police contend the object flying from Duenez’ hand was a knife that was later found in the bed of the pickup truck.
Willett noted that his department has seen its staff of prosecutors slashed from 95 to 67 due to budget shortfalls. At the same time the number of DA investigators has been slashed in half to about 20 creating a backlog of cases.
While the matter hasn’t made it to the criminal court system and may never do so, it already has made it to the federal courts where a $25 million lawsuit has been filed against the City of Manteca.
United States Eastern District Court Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton’s ruled Feb. 23 that the lawsuit against the city as well as individual actions against former Police Chief Dave Bricker, Officer John Moody, and a number of unnamed defendants can proceed. The city had tried to get the lawsuit dismissed arguing that the law firm representing plaintiffs who are Duenez’ widow and son had failed to meet legal qualifications for claims they were suing the city over.
The argument that the plaintiffs have grounds to sue the city for alleged use of excessive force and depriving Duenez of his constitutionall rights was allowed to stand and continue forward in the lawsuit.
Regardless of what the DA determines, it means Manteca can still be held liable in civil court even if the shooting was determined by Willett’s office to be justified.
A rundown of what the court filing contends happened on June 8
The federal court filing by the Duenez family attorney notes:
• Duenez had asked a recent acquaintance of his - Rudy Camarena - for a ride to another person’s house to pick up various items he had left there.
• The homeowner said Duenez had dropped a knife on the ground as he retrieved his property.
• After Duenez got back into Camarena’s pickup, the homeowner brought the knife out to the truck.
• The homeowner said Duenez accepted the knife and one of them - either Duenez or Camarena - tossed the knife into the bed of the pickup where it was not accessible from inside the cab where Camarena’s wife, Duenez and Camarena were seated.
• The homeowner then called police and told them Duenez was armed with a knife
• That report was subsequently relayed by dispatch to police.
• The three returned to the Camarena residence later with Duenez seated in the small back seat of the two-door pickup.
• Duenez’s wife Whitney was inside the residence.
• After Camarena parked his pickup in his yard, Moody pulled behind them in his patrol car and activated his red lights and siren.
• Duenez, who was in the back seat, began to try and exit the truck while Camarena and his wife remained in the truck.
• The truck’s ignition was turned off.
• Duenez pushed Camarena’s wife forward as he began to exit the truck. He stepped his left foot out of the truck.
• Duenez’s right foot became entangled in the seat belt.
• Duenez’s hands were up.
• Duenez held a dark-colored object in one hand that the legal filing states was likely the glass marijuana-smoking pipe later found at the scene.
• Moody ran around the driver’s side of his patrol vehicle while yelling for Duenez to put his hands up.
• Duenez was in the process of getting out of the truck with one hand on the cab of the truck and one hand on the open passenger door of the truck, with the dark object in the hand on the cab of the truck.
• This was taking place with Duenez and the officer 15 feet from each other.
• Moody ordered Duenez to “drop the knife now.”
• 13 gun shots were fired.
• ”About” four gunshots occurred after Duenez had fallen to the ground.
• Time elapsed from the officer exiting the patrol car until the shooting started was 6.6 seconds.
• After the shooting, a knife was located in the rear of the pickup truck.
• No object from Duenez’ traveled into the bed of the pickup truck at any time based on what is depicted in the video footage according to the court filing.
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.
The lawsuit contends Manteca Police relied on information passed to them wrongfully that Duenez was armed, besides the call from the homeowner who returned the knife Duenez dropped. The filing also states Moody had information that Duenez stored a gun in his buttocks. It also states that Moody told investigators that information he received from dispatch was simply that Duenez was involved in an altercation with some woman and had a knife on his person but had not threatened anyone.
Duenez was on parole at the time he was killed. He was set to be discharged from parole a month after he was killed. The court filing states Duenez believed he may have tested positive on a drug test and that he possibly had a warrant four for violating parole due “to the likely positive drug test.”