Police Shot a Pregnant California Teen – But With No Video, The Case Dried Up

Elena Mondragon, 16, was shot and killed by police after leaving a swimming pool with friends. She was unarmed.

The undercover officers were dressed in plain clothes and armed with AR-15 rifles when they ambushed the car of teenagers. As the car’s driver attempted to speed away – he later said he thought they were being robbed – two of the policemen fired at the vehicle, missing the driver and striking Elena Mondragon, a 16-year-old girl in the passenger seat, killing her.

The killing of Mondragon – who was pregnant and unarmed – was as shocking and tragic as many of the fatal police shootings that have sparked viral hashtags, national protests and widespread media coverage in recent years. But her death in March last year in Hayward, California, barely made headlines outside local news.

That’s largely because no one recorded the incident on a smartphone. Likewise, none of the officers present turned on the body cameras they were wearing. As a result, law enforcement’s narrative – that the shooting was necessary as they tried to arrest the driver – has largely prevailed. The policemen were cleared and sent back to work.

The case offers a window into how families alleging police brutality struggle to get justice or mainstream support without video evidence, even when many facts of the killing are undisputed and disturbing.

“When there’s no video, that’s a battle for us,” said Melissa Nold, an Oakland attorney whose civil rights law office filed a federal lawsuit against police on Wednesday on behalf of Mondragon’s family. “People just tend to believe what is reported by the police. The public just takes it at face value, and it just sort of disappears.”

Police said officers were attempting to arrest a 19-year-old named Rico Tiger, who was wanted for several armed robberies and was driving the vehicle, which had been reported stolen. A group of officers had been surveilling the teenagers and had planned to arrest Tiger by blocking his car before they drove off, prosecutors said. But the plan failed, and Tiger drove off before police confronted him.

They tried to stop and arrest Tiger, and Sgt Jeremy Miskella and Detective Joel Hernandez of the Fremont police department eventually fired at the vehicle as it accelerated away.

“This is standard procedure. You do not shoot into a moving car,” said John Burris, an attorney for the family, speaking to a row of local television cameras in a small office conference room. About two dozen relatives sat by his side, many sobbing and holding each other, wearing shirts that said “Ebbie”, Mondragon’s nickname.

“It is unconscionable,” said Burris. “What has happened here is a cover-up for that botched police work.”

Although it is widely accepted that officers should not fire into fleeing vehicles, the officers claimed to investigators that they feared the car could kill one of them. The local prosecutor accepted this argument and ruled that the killing of Mondragon, who was not a suspect in the police investigation, was justified.

The Alameda county district attorney’s office has charged Tiger in the murder of the 16-year-old girl – despite the fact that he told investigators he was driving away because he “got scared” and thought the undercover officers were trying to rob them. He said he would have stopped and complied had he known that they were officers. (The officers said they had announced that they were police while pointing their rifles at Tiger.)

The exact sequence of events and commands will forever remain unknown, since the officers chose not to turn on their cameras, even though they had been preparing for the arrest prior to the confrontation.

But even without video, Mondragon’s grieving relatives said it should be obvious that police made a series of egregious errors.

“We’re not getting the justice we deserve,” said Christina Flores, Mondragon’s aunt. “She was taken from us. It was so preventable. It never should have happened.”

For full story visit: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/15/elena-mondragon-police-shooting-california-no-video

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5624 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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