Opening Arguments Begin
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
Nearly five years after SJPD Covert Response Unit officer Mike Pina shot and killed Jacob Dominguez, he is facing civil trial for use of unnecessary & lethal excessive use of force.
Within first 5 seconds of their opening argument, City Attorneys criminalize Jacob even after death
SJPD/San Jose City attorneys claim that the police did everything right when they shot and killed Jacob Dominguez within 20 seconds of blocking in his car with unmarked vehicles. They blame Jacob for his own death, cite his criminal history and falsely paint him as participating in a drug fueled crime spree as they kept his mugshot on the courtroom screens during most of their opening statements. At one point, the City attorney said that the Jacob that day “was not the same person that [his wife] and his kids knew” as if Jacob was not the family man his family and community remembers.
But Jacob’s family lawyer John Crowley affirms that Jacob’s history or past struggles do not justify his execution. He was unarmed. His civil rights were violated. Crowley described the tragedy as an avoidable catastrophic loss that calls for correction, and the actions of officer Mike Pina as willful, wanton and reckless. They left his family without a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a cousin. His family will never get to see Jacob again.
Surveillance video of the incident that occurred in broad daylight at a busy intersection with homes and a park nearby, shows Officer Piña was the first to exit his vehicle, with his AR-15 rifle drawn. Very soon after Officer Christopher Ferguson exits his vehicle and positions his gun aiming at Jacob who is sitting in his car which is boxed in by police.
Body camera video, some with audio malfunctions and some with blocked views show us what the brief, chaotic scene was like. Pina yells: “Get your hands up motherfucker! Let me see your hands up motherfucker!” Seconds later, there are two shots fired one right after the other. Thirteen seconds later a flash bang - a device used to make a loud noise to disorient subjects - is deployed. Then a canine unit was released to attack Jacob while he was in the car. There was no attempt at de-escalation. The body camera video is from Officer Ferguson. Officer Pina, the key officer's video which would be vital to seeing what happened in those critical moments, somehow does not exist.
First witness Officer Ferguson was the first witness to take the stand. An officer with SJPD for 15 years and part of the CRU for 5 years. Based on the information provided at the operation briefing before locating Jacob, Ferguson claimed he believed Jacob was armed with a handgun. This would eventually be found to be untrue when the police found no weapon in Jacob’s car, meaning he was unarmed when he was shot and killed.
Ferguson says Jacob complied with the verbal commands - just “a few seconds” after he began yelling, but that in his opinion Jacob wasn’t fully compliant because he raised his hands “nonchalantly” his hands were only raised shoulder height. But no matter how Officer Ferguson tries to spin the narrative, he cannot deny that he saw Jacob's hands up and empty.
What imminent threat?
Officer Mike Pina shot at Jacob Dominguez from 10 feet away with an assault rifle, aiming at his head. One bullet shattered the partially opened driver’s side window and hit Jacob in the jaw. The other shot went into the panel between the passenger side doors and left a clean circle in that part of the car, meaning nothing obstructed its path. Jacob’s arms were up because that shot also went through the bottom of the left sleeve of Jacob’s hoodie with out hitting Jacob. It's obvious that if a bullet cleanly went through the bottom of his sleeve and left a bullet hole in the car around shoulder height, that Jacob’s hands were up when Officer Piña fired his two shots.
Ferguson later said on the stand that he agreed that shooting 10 feet away would increase the probability that it would cause death. He also admitted that police are trained to aim for center mass (for the body torso) and not the head.
Officer Ferguson claims he saw Jacob lower his hands, and he perceived a threat - imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. But neither he nor Officer Lopez fires at Jacob. Ferguson says that it was almost simultaneous when he saw Jacob’s hands going down and when Piña fired his weapon.
At the moment Ferguson deployed his own flash bang, he said he did so because he felt he was safe enough to do so. His hand left his gun to reach into a pocket and deploy the flash bang. Yet that is the moment he also claims he saw Jacob lower his hands and it constituted an “imminent threat” to Officer Pina, Lopez or himself. The action he decided to take was to use a flash bang, not use his weapon.
Officer Ferguson cross examination will continue Monday morning at 9am.