San Jose Police's Use of Lethal Force on Jacob: Rotten, Aggressive Tactics from Top to Bottom
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
San Jose City attorneys continued their defense of Officer Mike Pina by calling up Sergeant Mauricio Jimenez and Lieutenant Gustavo Perez, two of the commanding officers that lead the Covert Response Unit (CRU) that killed Jacob Dominguez on September 15, 2017. In our previous post, we shared how Officer Peter Szemeredi wrote the operational plan on the day of the incident. We learned that the false information that Jacob was alleged to have a gun was based on information given to CRU by an unidentified confidential informant. Once again: Jacob was unarmed when he was killed. There was no gun in his car. Law enforcement have an extremely flexible use of power based purely on allegations. This piece of information, of Jacob carrying a gun, was false and led to his killing. We are supposed to take everything the cops say as truth with no method of verifying their claims. They make it seem like their advanced militaristic training, surveillance and weaponry is something that makes them legitimate and elite: in reality, the details of this operation show us how rotten, sloppy, and cruel law enforcement works from top to bottom. Sergeant Lopez and Lieutenant Perez fell in line during their testimony illustrating a disturbing bend on the truth and a belief that Pina’s actions were justified. This is clearly an effort to cover their bases to justify the shooting of an unarmed man with his hands up.
Pina's teammates are there to help him out
For his testimony, Officer Mauricio Jimenez described arriving on the scene as soon as the two shots were fired. His body worn camera was fully functioning. Again, this wasn’t just Pina and the two officers performing the arrest: an entire “sophisticated, highly skilled tactical team” was supposed to apprehended Jacob safely. Jimenez then said he took 22 seconds to assess the situation and had officers withdraw to the rear. “My only concern was that the suspect was firing from the vehicle.” Jimenez was also questioned about the training given to officers on the Vehicle Containment Technique that was used to effectively box in Jacob’s car. Asked about why they train to make adjustments to the technique he gave an answer that can be applied to what we saw in court that day, “because you know not everything goes perfect every time – if there is a human error, we’re a team we help each other so if one officer does the tactic maybe not 100% his teammates are there to help him out.” When addressing the issue of body cameras Jimenez said that they “aren’t a safety concern … If they can turn the body camera on before, that would be ideal. At times there is so much going on we forget, we try to remind each other to start recording.” During his testimony, Jimenez seemed cautious about his wording and kept direct eye contact with the City attorneys, rarely addressing the jury.
Above the shoulders is not "center mass"
Lieutenant Gustavo Perez was a Sergeant in the Covert Response Unit at the time of the incident, he was partially responsible for overseeing Officer Pina’s training. He was there to tell the jury that officer Pina followed training standards. But his testimony made clear that SJPD training definitions don’t match up to the ‘generally accepted practices.’ In his view Mike Pina using lethal force on Jacob Dominguez was “consistent with teachings and principles of the San Jose Police Department.” A particularly disturbing moment from Perez’s testimony came when he described the concept of “center mass”. When deciding to “eliminate an imminent threat” while using their assault rifles, police are trained to aim for “center mass”, the middle of the exposed area on the subject, because it increases the likelihood of stopping the imminent threat. Jacob was shot and killed while sitting in his car. When pressed by Jacob’s family’s attorney Mr. Crowley about this, Perez refused to say the word “head”...“I wouldn’t say the head is center mass, it’s above the shoulders," twisting his words on the stand. Lieutenant Perez's demeanor was much more confident, stone faced and arrogant compared to sergeant Jimenez, another bullshit display of their chain of command. Perez was caught. His mission on the stand was to blindly defend the actions of Pina, which meant he had to claim that every unlawful act Pina took was what Perez taught him in CRU training. At one point, Perez said if someone is not "100% cooperative" then officers should see the person as a lethal threat, and can shoot. This is clearly not the lethal force standard, but if Perez admitted that, it would leave Pina out beyond the scope of the SJPD training and protocols.
Szemeredi, Perez, & Jimenez were brought out by the City attorneys to legitimize these horrific tactics and criminalize Jacob - as stated - based largely on the information obtained from a mysterious “confidential informant.” Allegations allowed in the courtroom that there was gang involvement and criminal history without having to distinguish from convictions or actual charges brought against Jacob. There was no weapon, Jacob’s hands were up. In the words Jacob’s wife Jessica during her testimony, if he had done “something wrong… that’s why we have a legal system. He should have been apprehended safely.” Instead, Mike Pina ended this possibility in 20 seconds.