It was a clear and consistent message: They want an independent federal investigation into the fatal Manteca Police shooting of 34-year-old Ernesto Duenez Jr.
Nearly 70 community members as well as family and friends of the 34-year-old Duenez asked the City Council Tuesday for “full transparency” into the June 8 shooting.
The video they referred to is the dash camcorder in the police unit that reportedly recorded the incident.
The fact that civil rights attorney John Burris has filed a wrongful death claim on behalf of the Duenez family against the city prompted council members to simply listen politely and not respond to the requests.
“My son was not a perfect man, but he was a wonderful and caring man,” his mother Rosemary Duenez told the council.
She questioned why her son was “shot like an animal” after asking for an independent investigation and for charges to be brought against the officer. Manteca Police have not released the name of the officer who did the shooting. He was placed on paid leave after the shooting but is now back on duty.
“Where is the truth?” Rosemary Duenez asked.
More than a dozen speakers told the council of their concerns. They wanted to know why:
•the officer was back on duty if the investigation wasn’t completed.
•the alleged weapon hasn’t been produced.
•Police Chief Dave Bricker and officers haven’t offered the family their condolences.
•he was shot multiple times that included - according to several speakers - once in the face.
Bricker has indicated the investigation could take as long as six months to complete. That’s due in large part to the fact the district attorney office’s investigator has several other officer involved-shootings from other jurisdictions ahead of the Manteca case.
One speaker noted that they have collected letters as well as a petition signed by 700 people wanting “justice for Ernesto.” Signatures were not only from Manteca but surrounding communities as well.
Several spoke to what they viewed as an upswing in fatal police shootings in the Central Valley.
“We are all Oscar Grants,” said Stockton resident Kerry Downs in reference to the unarmed man who was shot in the back and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and has since been released.
The remarks were mostly calm and measured and were accompanied by smatterings of applause.
At one point, however, those in attendance to pressure the council to intercede in some manner in the investigation, booed when Manteca resident Georgiana Reichelt spoke in defense of the police.
When Reichelt got up and said, “I want to thank you (Police Chief Dave Bricker) and the police for protecting me,” she was roundly booed.
The council interceding in an active police investigation would be unprecedented for Manteca.