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California City Settles Fatal Police Shooting Suit for $2.2 Million

On April 7, 2014, the City of Manteca, California settled a lawsuit over an allegedly unjustified fatal police shooting for $2.2 million.

Parolee Ernesto Duenez, Jr., 35, was sitting in a pickup truck along with his friend, Rudy Camarena and Camarena’s wife in the front yard of the Camarena’s house when Manteca police officer John Moody ordered him to exit the truck with his hands up.  According to court documents, Duenez opened the door and started to exit the truck when his foot became entangled in the seat belt.  He was also holding something in his hand, probably a glass marijuana-smoking pipe that was later discovered nearby on the ground.

Moody ordered Duenez to “drop the knife!” and immediately opened fire. Moody fired a total of 13 rounds, the last four of which were fired after Duenez had collapsed onto the ground and the last one after a long pause and at close range.  The severely wounded Duenez was still alive but, rather than providing medical care, Moody searched him and the area, even pulling down his pants looking for a weapon without success.  Duenez received no medical care until the emergency medical personnel arrived.  He died of multiple gunshot wounds soon thereafter.  Duenez’s wife, Whitney, had been in the house.  She came out when she heard the first shots and saw her husband shot multiple times while he was lying helpless on the ground.  The shooting was captured on police dash camera video.

With the assistance of Oakland attorneys John L. Burris and Benjamin Nisenbaum, Duenez’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Manteca, Moody and others.  The city opted to settle for $2.2 million.

Duenez’s son, who was 17 days shy of his first birthday when his father was killed, received $880,000 of the settlement, with 25% of it going to attorney fees and $34,824.43 being deducted for litigation costs.  The minor son received a net total of $625,175.57.  Other plaintiffs included Duenez’s wife, mother and father.  The settlement came after the judge denied defendants’ motion for summary judgement and refused to stay the suit during an interlocutory appeal.  See:  Duenez v. City of Manteca, U.S.D.C.-E.D. Cal., Case No. 2:111-cv-01829-LKK-KJN. 

Additional source: Sacramento Bee

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Related legal case

Duenez v. City of Manteca