"...I have a family. I'm not taking chance of him coming up with a cell phone." - SJPD Officer Pina
For the second day of the civil trial against Officer Mike Pina and the City of San Jose, all three officers involved in Jacob Dominguez’s shooting testified. Officer Ferguson finished his testimony from Friday, followed by Officer Lopez, Officer Mike Pina - who shot and killed Jacob - and Jacob’s wife Jessica began her testimony. As today’s court concluded, certain themes stand out as being the most important to the case. Themes that Jacob’s family has been amplifying since his killing nearly five years ago:
There was no "imminent threat"
Officers' account of the sequence of events during the 30 seconds leading up to Jacob’s killing don't make sense.
Body cameras not being turned on during the key moments.
The continued criminalization of Jacob by the City of San Jose and SJPD
Jacob’s wife reminded the courtroom of the personal effects on her and their three young children when Officer Pina chose to take Jacob’s life. The courtroom learned about the real Jacob through her: teenage sweethearts who built a family together, Jacob's dedication to family and work, his selflessness in supporting his wife's nursing career. Jacob’s family has been calling out the inconsistencies, uplifting his name against attacks on his character. The details of Jacob’s last seconds with us were laid bare.
Sequence of Events: Mike Pina killed Jacob within 20 seconds of the stop
San Jose City Attorneys and the officers involved tried to illustrate a sophisticated, days-long covert operation to justify the killing of Jacob Dominguez. But the reality was cruel and swift: Mike Pina killed Jacob with an assault rifle, 10 feet away and 20 seconds after pulling him over. City Attorneys had the officers describe their careers, how they triumphantly worked their way up the ranks within SJPD to land at the CRU (Covert Response Unit), a “highly trained and highly skilled unit” that specializes in “surveillance and apprehension of violent suspects.” All code for: false assumptions and the continued criminalization of Jacob Dominguez that lead to his killing.
The details of these horrific 20 seconds were laid out in detail:
The first 10 seconds
At around noon on September 15, 2017, Officers Lopez, Ferguson & Pina - all driving separate unmarked cars, deployed VCT (Vehicle Containment Technique), the maneuver used to box in Jacob’s car. The three officers exited their vehicles, AR Rifles in hand and shout aggressively phrases like "I'll fucking shoot you, get your fucking hands up!" All three officers were within 20 feet of Jacob, Pina being the closest at 10 feet. Pina testified that Jacob raised his hands within 6-8 seconds of being asked. All officers had to admit that Jacob complied to their commands - he put his hands up.
The last 10 seconds
According to Pina’s testimony, Jacob then allegedly made an “aggressive motion forward... lunged towards the right very quickly and directly”, and chose to shoot and kill Jacob within 20 seconds of exiting his vehicle. Jacob was unarmed. There wasn’t a gun inside Jacob’s vehicle at all. Pina had to invent a scenario which was give the impression that Jacob created an imminent threat, so he made the claim of the lowering his hands. On the stand, it was the first time he described Jacob as moving forward "violently" But this fabrication is what has caught these officers in lies. The other officers had the burden of having to claim they saw Jacob lower his hands and reach down, yet also justify why they lowered their guns when they saw that. The video shows Ferguson and Lopez lowering their guns and reaching for their flashbang grenades during those key moments.
What happened immediately after was equally cruel and reckless: 13 seconds after Pina shot and killed Jacob, officer Lopez deployed a flashbang - a technique used to produce a loud noise intended to distract a person. Officer Ferguson claimed that he also saw Jacob reach down into his car and went to grab his own flashbang, before repositioning himself on his car roof with a rifle. Mr. Crawley, the attorney representing Jacob’s family, argued that if Jacob’s hands were down and was posing an imminent threat then why didn’t every officer shoot their weapon? Within 2 minutes, Sergeant Jimenez arrived - had the officers “peel back”, got on the bullhorn and told Jacob to “put your hands up.” They then sent out the canine unit to attack and maul Jacob before officially declaring him deceased.
The other glaring component to highlight: Ferguson’s body camera was the only one on during the duration of the incident, Lopez and Pina turned theirs on after the shooting citing “a lot of moving parts'' and an emphasis on preparing their “weapons over cameras.”
No Existent “Imminent Threat”
To the City of San Jose & SJPD: Jacob Dominguez was an “imminent threat” deserving of death. In reality, these officers did not give Jacob anything close to a chance: 20 seconds indicates that officer Pina was preemptive, he was anticipating this outcome, this unit did not exhaust all other non lethal options.
They argued that Jacob posed an imminent threat due to his alleged involvement in an armed robbery a few days before. What also came out during testimony is they didn't even know what involvement if any Jacob had in the robbery. The entire operation after the robbery was directed to the person they knew was involved in the robbery. Jacob was at most an afterthought, not a primary suspect. There was also no information even alluding to the idea that Jacob had a gun at the robbery. So the premise that Jacob was armed was based on absolutely no objective information.
Yet officer Lopez said he was “100% certain” that Jacob was reaching for a gun, saying the “only rational thing he was reaching for was a weapon.” This cannot be overstated: Jacob was unarmed when he was killed. There was no gun in his car at all. On the contrary, there was a handgun found at the home of the person they arrested for the robbery. So the line that the only place the handgun could be would be with Jacob is untrue.
It was revealed that the police made no effort to verify the pistol they found during a search warrant allegedly tied to the armed robbery. Officer Lopez confirmed that there was no discussion of that in the Covert Response Unit debriefs prior or on the day of Jacob’s killing. Lopez even summarized the morning debrief the day of the shooting saying that Jacob was “likely armed”, a known gang member and had a criminal history. The negligence of SJPD and the CRU to not investigate the link between the pistol found and the robbery turned out to be a lethal mishandling resulting in Jacob’s killing. At one point attorney Crowley asked Officer Lopez, "Wouldn't it have been a good idea to see if the gun you found at the home was connected to the robbery instead of assuming Jacob had it?" The officer responded, "Yes."
To further the inconsistencies of Officer Ferguson, Mr Crawley cited his deposition where he stated that he saw Jacobs hands up with limp wrists about “ear level.” When the City attorney followed up with Mr. Ferguson on Jacob’s hands up, Ferguson demonstrated on the stand and said Jacob’s hands were shoulder height.
The City is relying on these officers saying that Jacob was somehow “resisting”while also confirming his hands were up. Jacob allegedly reaching down was an imminent threat worthy of death for Mike Pina. Without this fabricated argument, the case is practically non-existent.
Turning Off Body Worn Camera - "Operator Malfunction"
Officer Pina proudly claimed that his memory is more reliable than a body camera because the body camera only catches one angle. The absurdity of this statement can’t be understated and in fact, is an example of why body cameras are a necessity to hold police accountable. Pina actually said his memory of the killing is better npw, nearly five years later, then in the interviews just hours after the shooting. He has to say this to sanitize the statements he made when initially interviewed.
For Officer Lopez, his testimony included his excuses for why he turned the body camera on only after Jacob was shot. Lopez tried to make it seem like there was too much to do in their pursuit and Vehicle Containment Technique (VCT) on Jacob that the body camera just wasn't important enough to turn on. He also cited the imminent threat that Jacob posed as reason why he didn’t turn it on, that he was too focused on that threat. But when speaking about his flash bang grenade, he described himself as being so familiar with his equipment that he could manage lowering his rifle, reaching his grenade and arming it all while looking at Jacob’s car but for some reason, he was unable to turn on his body camera equipment with the same kind of ease.
Officer Ferguson was the only cop who had his body camera on and his camera is the main footage where we are able to fully understand the timing of the events that took place. Without Ferguson’s camera, we would be left solely with the word of the officers all involved in murdering Jacob.
As the City attorney continues their defense, it becomes more and more clear that their case is built on trying to portray Jacob as a violent criminal gang member. This is what Jacob’s family always knew -- that the City of San Jose would attempt to criminalize Jacob in order to defend his murder. While questioning Officer Lopez, the City attorneys left Jacob’s mug shot on display screens in the courtroom long after they finished talking about the evidence exhibit. Essentially, they left up Jacob’s mug shot for the jury to look at while they asked Officer Lopez questions that had nothing to do with Jacob’s mugshot. This is only a subtle example. In other moments, they make claims that they had “reason to believe” or that Jacob was “suspected” or in “connection” with gangs, drugs and violence. Accusations like this are just presumed as fact by police and the City attorneys. It is clear that their case relies on dehumanizing Jacob to the jury so they don't feel compassion for his murder. Their argument is that the more criminal Jacob is the more he deserved to die. They, of course, don't say this directly and instead create all their questioning around this framework.