Dashcam footage has once again shown a cop to be in the wrong. A federal appeals court issued a ruling recently over the police shooting of an unarmed man in 2011.
Tustin, California, police officer Osvaldo Villarreal shot and killed Benny Herrera, 31, during a domestic dispute call. Herrera was arguing with his girlfriend and allegedly took her cellphone. Villarreal and officer Brian Miali responded to the 911 call and learned from the dispatcher that Herrera was on parole for drug possession and possibly had a traffic warrant out for his arrest. The officers spotted Herrera walking down the street with his right hand in his pocket. At the time, Villarreal stated that Herrera ignored his commands to raise his hands and he was shot dead. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012 against Villarreal. In 2015, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office found that the shooting was reasonable and justified because Herrera had ignored orders to raise his hands before Villarreal fired his weapon. However, the D.A.’s Office relied on the officer’s statement and not available dashcam footage.
Last wee,k Villarreal received a legal blow from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his attempt to get the wrongful death lawsuit dismissed. The court reviewed the dashcam footage of the incident and rejected his appeal. “Less than a second elapsed between Villarreal commanding Herrera to take his hand from his pocket and Villarreal shooting him. Just as Herrera’s hand came out of his pocket, Villarreal fired two shots in rapid succession. …The command and the shots were almost simultaneous,” the ruling read. Circuit Judge William Fletcher, who wrote for the three-judge panel, stated, “It has long been clear that ‘[a] police officer may not seize an unarmed, non-dangerous suspect by shooting him dead.”
Villarreal will have to face a jury on civil rights claims brought by the family.