A man who was shot six times by San Jose police is suing the department, along with former chief Eddie Garcia and officer Eric Mosunic – the officer who fired the bullets.
The lawsuit filed by Yuridia Ochoa alleges multiple claims, including excessive force and unreasonable medical care after only four of the six bullets lodged in his body were able to be removed after his arrest.
Ochoa’s suit stems from a confrontation with Mosunic on June 2 during the city’s protests against the police killing of George Floyd. Ochoa created a sideshow — turning in tight, fast circles — in front of City Hall when he caught the attention of police.
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. When Mosunic caught up to him, he fired 14 rounds after Ochoa refused to turn off his car. The 23-year-old sustained six bullet wounds in the shoulder, neck and arm.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by attorney Mark E. Merin, who is representing Ochoa. They are asking for $5 million in damages.
According to the lawsuit, Ochoa sustained injuries that substantially limited one or more major life activities, including walking, lifting and communicating. The lawsuit does not go into detail as to the specifics of the alleged injuries.
“Ochoa was injured by the exploding flash-bang grenade which was deployed by (officers). Ochoa yelled in pain, as the flash-bang grenade exploded near him,” the lawsuit said.
When he surrendered to police, the lawsuit states the police order for Ochoa to crawl on his hands and knees toward police served no legitimate purpose because he posed no threat and was injured at that point.
Ochoa admitted that throughout the day he drank “five or six” White Claws, an alcoholic beverage.
The Law Office of Mark E. Merin did not respond to request for comment. A San Jose Police Department spokesperson told San José Spotlight that it does not comment on ongoing litigation.
More than 10 months later, Ochoa remains in custody awaiting trial – charged with multiple felonies, including eluding a peace officer, causing serious bodily injury, hit-and-run and assault.
San Jose police face numerous lawsuits over their treatment of protesters during multiple nights of protests, including a recent class action lawsuit filed by the NAACP of Silicon Valley.
Ochoa’s attorneys say officers violated protocol for shooting at a moving vehicle and using projectile weapons. They stated Ochoa was hit with a flash-bang grenade after he was already exiting the vehicle.
“Shooting at moving vehicles is generally an ineffective practice and could have unintended ramifications, including the potential injury to other people in the area,” according to the San Jose Police Department duty manual.
However, a provision in the policy says shooting at a moving vehicle is an option if the officer believes they cannot move to a safe position.
“I’m thinking, for a lack of a better term, ‘Oh s— ’,” Mosunic told department investigators when he described to them why he shot at Ochoa, according to the police report . “I thought that the car was gonna back up that ramp, and I was gonna get crushed.”
Mosunic added his motorcycle could not reverse and he would have to push it up the steep driveway if he wanted to move out of the way. If Ochoa tried to make a U-turn, there wouldn’t be room for Mosunic to get out of the way, he said.
When investigators asked Mosunic why he didn’t warn the driver he would shoot, he said there wasn’t sufficient time.
Almost three months after the officer-involved shooting, the department released what it described as a community briefing on its YouTube channel. The video’s thumbnail photo featured Ochoa’s mugshot and a list of his prior offenses.
“San José Police Department and Edgardo Garcia published the video in (an) attempt to negatively portray Plaintiff Yuridia Ochoa to the public and to imply that Defendant Eric Monsunic’s shooting was justified,” the lawsuit stated.
His next court appearance in Santa Clara County Superior Court will be June 24 to discuss potential plea bargains.
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.