Protester shot 6 times by San Jose police still awaiting trial 20 weeks later
An eyewitness recorded smartphone video of the shooting from above.

It was the fifth night of protests in San Jose following the police killing of George Floyd and Yuridia Ochoa was doing a sideshow in his silver 2009 Audi A4 — turning in tight, fast circles in the car in front of City Hall at about 9 p.m.

Within minutes, he was the target of a high-speed police chase that stretched nearly a mile and a half through the city’s streets. SJPD Officer Eric Mosunic caught up to Ochoa and cornered him.

After multiple warnings to turn the car off and giving Ochoa commands not to move, Mosunic fired 14 shots from his handgun, hitting Ochoa six times in the shoulder, neck and arm.

Ochoa was swiftly charged with four felonies. More than 20 weeks later, he sits in a jail cell awaiting trial.

The incident was captured on Mosunic’s body-worn camera and on phone video by witnesses.

“We are lucky we have the footage,” said Ochoa’s lawyer, Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Lara Wallman. “Before body cams and cell phone cameras, public defenders were working against the fact that too often prosecutors and judges take what police say at face value. No one would believe me without the video.”

The shooting happened after a brutal, week-long crackdown this spring when San Jose police used violence against protesters — sometimes with little to no provocation — beating demonstrators with batons, targeting them with pepper spray and tear gas and shooting them with rubber bullets.

Yuridia Ochoa.

Ochoa’s lawyer told San José Spotlight it is unjust the internal investigation into Mosunic’s conduct has gone on for so long with no charges filed.

“You can’t have my client locked up on at least one trumped up charge and have Officer Mosunic, who shot him six times, walking free and living his life,” said Wallman. “That’s not fair.”

Ochoa has been waiting in jail for weeks because of a delay in court proceedings due to COVID-19 and a high bail amount. The bail is set at $500,000.

Wallman acknowledges Ochoa’s behavior was reckless and dangerous. But nothing Ochoa did that night could possibly justify a hailstorm of gunfire by police, the public defender said.

The sideshow

According to an SJPD report, Mosunic told investigators that officers in a chopper hovered above protesters as they marched  — estimating sizes of groups, identifying criminal activity, relaying that information to officers on the ground and giving them direction.

At around 9 p.m. Mosunic was on his motorcycle waiting for orders with several other officers in the parking lot of a funeral home near the intersection of 10th and Santa Clara streets. Mosunic told investigators he heard officers in the helicopter report “some sideshow activity, specifically a silver Audi,” according to the report.

The motorcycle police were assigned to disperse the crowd. They moved three blocks to 7th Street, and Sgt. Greg Connolly told investigators he saw the Audi doing donuts. He recognized the vehicle, remembered police in the helicopter told officers on the ground to stop the driver and decided to pull over the car.

As Connolly got closer, Ochoa completed a loop around the intersection and sped away, north on 6th Street.

The chase

Connolly pursued the Audi and Mosunic joined the chase. At the next intersection, St. John Street, Adrianna Saralla was crossing 6th Street on a scooter and was struck by the Audi. Both police officers told investigators they thought the collision was fatal.

“I thought the person was dead,” Sgt. Connolly said, according to the report.

Saralla survived and was later treated for a broken ankle and a cut on her face. But Ochoa kept going through the intersection, with police chasing. At Jackson Street, nearly a mile away from where the chase began, police lost sight of the car.

Connolly told investigators he and Mosunic started to search for the Audi, trying to see if it had turned down a side street. Over the radio a lieutenant ordered the officers to return to the protest. Connolly and Mosunic turned off their emergency lights and slowed down as they approached Mission Street.

That’s when they noticed a trail of fluid Connolly suspected was left by the Audi. When the car hit Saralla, her scooter went under its front end and the sergeant surmised it had ripped open the car’s radiator hose, according to the report. The officers followed the trail as it turned east on Mission where they saw the car parked on the south side of the street.

The Audi’s lights were off and its windows tinted. Mosunic stopped behind the Audi, near its trunk. Unbeknownst to police, Ochoa was still at the wheel of the car. Suddenly, he pulled away from the curb and the Audi clipped Connolly’s motorcycle, knocking it over as he hopped off. The car also “brushed” his leg as it passed, but Connolly was not injured, according to the police report.

Mosunic continued the pursuit, leaving Connolly to get his motorcycle upright again.

The shooting

Ochoa eventually pulled into a parking lot at Markethouse Lofts, a housing complex on Mission Street. The lot dead ends near a gated parking garage for residents. With Mosunic hot on his trail, there was nowhere left for Ochoa to run.

With lights flashing and sirens wailing, Mosunic chased Ochoa to the end of the lot. Then he hopped off the motorcycle, activated his body-worn camera, drew his gun and approached the driver’s window.

“Put your f—g hands up!” Mosunic shouted.

The officer gave repeated commands for Ochoa to put his hands up and turn off the car. The driver did not respond to those commands. Instead, Ochoa started to back up slowly.

Mosunic repeatedly warned him to stop. But the car continued to reverse. The officer aimed his gun and fired 14 shots in three volleys, pausing between each and warning Ochoa to stop the car.

Shortly thereafter several other officers, including Connolly, arrived on the scene.

Ochoa was charged with eluding a peace officer causing serious bodily injury and hit-and-run — two felonies in connection with his collision with the pedestrian. Ochoa was also charged with assaulting Connolly and Mosunic.

The investigation

In a video posted to SJPD’s YouTube channel Aug. 28, Lt. Brian Shab, commander of the department’s homicide unit, said Mosunic was placed on routine, paid administrative leave after the shooting.

Chief Eddie Garcia said the SJPD’s homicide unit investigates all officer-involved shootings in conjunction with the District Attorney’s office, and those investigations are monitored by the city attorney’s office and the independent police auditor.

“We will not make any conclusions about whether the officer involved acted consistently with our policy and the law until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete,” Garcia said in the video.

A police department spokesman declined to answer questions from San José Spotlight about the shooting, saying SJPD hasn’t finished its investigation and doesn’t comment on ongoing personnel investigations.

The police investigation will determine if Mosunic adhered to department policy regarding the use of deadly force. Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s office will decide whether to bring criminal charges against the officer.

It is unclear whether Mosunic has since resumed his regular duties following his forced leave, but Ochoa’s lawyer has asked the court to make his SJPD files, including his disciplinary records, available as she prepares his defense.

Contact Adam F. Hutton at [email protected] or follow @adamfhutton on Twitter.

 

SJPD Ochoa Report Det_ Meeker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.