Day 3 of the civil trial for the police killing of Jacob Dominguez was both powerful to see the police get caught in lies, but also heartbreaking hearing the exact details of Jacob’s murder and the effects on his family that remain present to this day. During the testimony of Jacob's wife, Jessica, numerous photos were shared of Jacob, Jessica and their three young children: at the zoo, camping, birthdays, baptisms, and anniversaries - further proving the point that Jacob was extremely present and dedicated to his family. Nearly five years later - Jessica’s testimony showed how Jacob’s family continues to hurt with his absence, their whole life uprooted.
The court also heard testimony from David Balash, a ballistics expert and Scott DeFoe, a police practices and use of force expert. Their testimonies drive home the grim details of Jacob’s last seconds:
Military weaponry was used 10 feet away. Jacob was hit in the jaw from ten feet away with an assault rifle, where a hollow point bullet was going 2,700 feet per second. Because the bullet hit his window first, the bullet unraveled and ripped its' way through Jacob and ended at his spine. (Balash)
Jacob’s hands were up when he was shot. The second bullet missed Jacob, but pierced the left sleeve of his sweater, hitting the panel on the passenger side of the car. The bullet hole had to have been 5-6 inches above the window: Jacob’s left hand was up. (Balash)
Aggressive tactics, use of force, & no imminent threat. The three officers who stopped Jacob established “containment” of Jacob’s car. The Covert Response Unit (CRU) had everything at their disposal: 7-9 other officers ready, a canine unit (that was eventually used after Jacob was shot), air support, and a separate SWAT team. Defoe stated the protocol is to "then pull back, use time, strategy and distance to make an arrest." Instead, Officer Pina positioned himself 10 feet away from Jacob’s car and killed him within 20 seconds. If someone supposed (and wrongly) assumed the person they are focused on is armed - it doesn't make sense to stand next to a window without cover. Use of force was present. Most importantly, regardless of whatever movement Jacob allegedly made, there was no weapon present: no imminent threat. (DeFoe)
Ballistics Expert Expose Lies by Police
Mr. Balash went into great detail about the bullets Officer Pina used. He fired 2 hollow point bullets from his .223 caliber. Because they are hollow points, Balash explained that the shell of the bullet nearly explodes on first contact and is intended to create a larger diameter impact. Mr. Balash concluded that the first bullet went through Jacob’s partially rolled down window then exploding releasing the bullet fragments that hit Jacob in the jaw and ended at his spine, killing him.
The second bullet is the most damning of the police’s testimony. Mr. Balash explains that the second bullet exploded on impact on the B panel of Jacob’s car between the doors on the passenger side. This second bullet had a clean entry and exit on the bottom of Jacob’s left sleeve before hitting the car. The significance of this is that for the second bullet’s trajectory to go through Jacob’s sleeve and into the car panel from 10 ft away standing up means that the bullet entered above the car door metal therefore proving that Jacob’s left elbow was above the window sill when he was shot. In fact, Balash estimates that the bullet entered 5 to 6 inches above the driver side window sill and still went under Jacob’s left arm through the bottom of his left sleeve. This was confirmed further with Mr. Crawley’s partial life size replica of the car Jacob was driving that was brought into court, where the jury was able to see the proximity of where Pina was standing, where the car was and the trajectory of the 2nd bullet.
To conclude his questioning, Mr. Crawley asked Mr. Balash if Officer Pina’s statements were consistent with his evaluations. Mr. Balash responded that Pina’s statements were not consistent because the bullet strike on the sweatshirt could not have occurred under those circumstances, referring to Pina’s claims that Jacob was leaning forward reaching for something. If the second bullet was discharged while Jacob was leaning forward, based on evidence of the sweatshirt, the bullet would have to go through the metal portion of the door and it would not have ended up in the B pillar of the car. Below are some of Pina’s statements that were deemed not true based on Mr. Balash’s evaluations.
“[Jacob] put his hands up, stared at me, went down quickly - leaning movement still staring at me, that’s the point I fired my weapon.”
“[Jacob] quickly dropped his hands out of sight for me to no longer see them, in direction towards floor or where he was sitting”
“[Jacob] quickly dropped them and leaned down out of sight so his body started going forward too”
From Mr. Balash’s evaluations, Jacob’s hands were up well above the window of the car when he was shot and killed by Officer Pina.
Use of Force Expert Confirms - There Was No “Imminent Threat”
Mr. DeFoe explained in his testimony that the officers involved did not follow their own procedure, went against SJPD’s own manual and created the situation resulting in Jacob’s death. Despite Officers Pina, Lopez and Ferguson describing how to execute the Vehicle Containment Technique, Mr. DeFoe explained that once Jacob’s car was contained, the officers were supposed to pull back and wait for support team and go to plan B if needed. Instead, Pina stood 10 feet away from Jacob's driver side door putting himself in what DeFoe called a “poor tactical position.” Furthermore, Pina’s automatic rifle allowed him to have a secure position much further away than the 10 feet he stood at and that the use of that weapon did not have to be lethal. DeFoe saw incredible error and wrong doing on part of Pina, saying “If you believe someone is armed, you wouldn’t stand outside his window.”
Mr. Crawley also questioned Mr. DeFoe about the claims that Jacob posed an imminent threat. Mr. DeFoe made very clear, stating over and over, there was no imminent threat. He explained how officers are trained to observe hands but confirmed that speculation of having a weapon is not enough to be an imminent threat, saying “he needs to see a gun.” What was significant is that Mr. DeFoe confirmed that even if Jacob reached down as officers claim he did, then it would still not be enough to declare Jacob an imminent threat and use lethal force. This is considering that we just had heard from Mr. Balash that Jacob’s hands never went down.