Sheriff Prieto Promises “Full and Complete Investigation” of Complaints About a Gun Put to 9 Year Old’s Head

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The testimony of the Yolo County Indepedent Civil Rights Commission has already begun to make an impact in Yolo County as Sheriff Ed Prieto is now forced to respond to allegations his deputies put a gun to a nine-year-old girl’s head during the serving a search warrant on June 11, 2009.

The Vanguard on Sunday morning was the first to report on nine-year-old Crystal Ochoa, who is now suffering from what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder stemming from treatment she received by Sheriff’s Deputies last June, the same team from the gang task force led by Sgt. Dale Johnson and including Deputies Bautista and Ovieda that had a little over a month before shot and killed Luis Gutierrez.

Following the Vanguard’s report, the Sacramento Bee picked up the story on Monday.  Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto was then forced to respond to these allegations even as he attempted to downplay the Civil Rights Commission’s proceedings.

Last night KCRA picked up the story and Sheriff Prieto vowed to investigate the allegations which he claims are news to him, calling them “extremely disturbing and critical.  However, he also repeatedly stressed at this point, he does not know if they’re true.  (Click here to see the video of the KCRA interview)

Sheriff Prieto told KCRA:

“We’re going to conduct a full internal investigation”

He continued:

“I would hate to think, I would hate to think that Mr. [Santiago] Ochoa’s complaints were legitimate, especially, especially the one that he alleges that an officer put a gun to his daughter’s head, I would find that extraordinarily disturbing. In all honesty, I cannot believe an officer doing that.”

He emphasized over and over that he has a hard time believing that these allegations are true.  He gave his investigators thirty days to interview everyone who is involved in the search warrant.

The incident occurred on June 11, 2009, when Sheriff’s Deputies visited the Ochoa home for at least fourth time this time armed with a search warrant to search for weapons.  They found none and neither Mr. Ochoa nor anyone in his family have been charged with a crime.

Mr. Ochoa testified on Saturday that the officers came in, threw his wife to the floor, tried to throw him to the floor and couldn’t, so they threw him out of their home.  When his daughter, Crystal, then nine years old entered the room, they put a gun to her head and threw her out of the home as well.

Mrs. Ochoa also testified:

“I said my daughter, my daughter, she came out like this and when she did, they put a pistol on her head and then threw her out as well along with me.”

She asked the female officer:

“Why do they do this to our daughter and she said, ‘children kill as well.’  She began to vomit from the fright and she trembled.  I said why to our little girl, she’s little?”  Crystal was nine years old and about 75 pounds at the time of the incident.  “In English they said, change the laws if you can.”

As a result of the trauma, Crystal has become ill, she repeatedly vomited, had to visit the emergency room, is having nightmares and is now struggling in school.

Said Mrs. Ochoa:

“Since then, I think she’s ill because she’s sleeping and she wakes up and then she slaps at us, it’s like she’s seeing something.  She says no, no, no.  She doesn’t sleep well at night.  It’s like she’s traumatized, I don’t know what.  We took her to a doctor at the clinic, and they said this girl is sick, take her to the emergency room.  She was taken to the hospital and the doctor said that she is traumatized.”

She continued,

“She wouldn’t stop vomiting and she was trembling like this.  She wouldn’t sleep because she was frightened.  We sent her to another place with family members so this would get out of her head.”

While Sheriff Prieto claims this is the first that they have heard of this incident, the department acknowledges receiving a verbal complaint at the time last summer.

The family described going down to the Sheriff’s Department following the incident.  When Mr. Ochoa went to the Sheriff’s Department, he took Crystal with him, he was looking for help, but apparently the Sheriff’s Deputy didn’t know what to do.  Crystal vomited twice in front of them at the Sheriff’s Department.

While it is undoubtedly the policy of the Sheriff’s Department not to follow up on oral complaints, one would think that a vomiting child might illicit a bit more concern and alarm.

The fact of the matter is that while Sheriff Prieto is vowing a full investigation, he is also in the same breath doubting the veracity of the complaints.

He said that he would hate to think that one of his men would do this and “In all honesty, I cannot believe an officer doing that.”

However, Crystal in her own words said on Saturday:

“One of the polices came and they pointed a gun at my head and started taking me outside with the gun at my head.”

Does he believe she is lying?

Mr. Ochoa interviewed on camera yesterday also told KCRA that he would prefer an independent agency investigate rather than the Sheriff’s Department.  Given the statements by the Sheriff, that may be a good idea.

The Vanguard will continue to monitor this case and update it as new information arises.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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10 thoughts on “Sheriff Prieto Promises “Full and Complete Investigation” of Complaints About a Gun Put to 9 Year Old’s Head”

  1. winelady

    I saw Prieto’s interview on the news. He seemed to be implying that the incident with the gun to Mr Ochoa’s 8-year-old daughter’s head was simply not possible: his implication was that the little girl was lying, despite the fact that she continued to throw up at the Sheriff’s office after the incident occurred.
    If this isn’t blatant racism and also state-condoned physical abuse of a child, I can’t imagine what you could call it. And what makes it even worse is that the officer who put the gun to the little girl’s head and threw her to the ground was a female! What has the prevailing attitude at that Sheriff’s Department about the people it serves done to the female officer’s integrity?
    How can this happen? Being a citizen of Yolo County, do I now have to worry that my son will be picked up and abused by a Sheriff’s deputy due simply to the color of his skin?
    This is appalling and something MUST be done to assure all the citizens of Yolo County that this egregiously-racial profiling will not happen again. And that female officer, and all the other good-ole-boys who stood around while she abused that child, should be fired. The attitude that drove their actions is not one that can be changed….they must be held responsible for their actions.

  2. Siegel

    Good post winelady. Adding one point, these are the same officers that killed Gutierrez, I can’t help but wonder their mindset in that encounter. We get insight into the Gutierrez shooting by witnessing the mentality of these deputies.

    I have small children, it is fairly easy to make sure they arent’ a threat without resorting to pointing a gun at a little girl’s head.

    And Ed, I just don’t get you, you seem to have no idea what your deputies are doing. You need to answer for this man.

  3. SueChan

    So why aren’t verbal complaints taken seriously? I’m concerned about all the other complaints that haven’t been investigated because the complainant wasn’t told that it had to be in writing. And what about the people who have a language barrier? Maybe a policy to not investigate verbal complaints is a convenient way to not “waste” department manhours. Reminds me of dealing with DJUSD. Lots of disturbing stories come out once you start asking around.

    Dear winelady, be aware that this could happen to your son anywhere in the US. The euphemism is “racial profiling” and it’s alive and well.

  4. trilogyjam

    Not sure where racism comes in. Did she say it was a bunch of white officers that did this? Maybe you are mixing different events, or you are claiming because they are hispanic that it is automatically racism.

    If this was the only claim by the family it would be easier to believe. But now we have all of the following items:

    1. Sheriff deputies quickly planted a knife after they shot him

    2. They then got out their tattoo gun and placed gang tattoos on his hand

    3. They then proceeded to inject him with meth

    4. Then they go and put guns to a nine year old’s head.

    Actually, number 4 is the easiest to believe.

    All of these claims come out while they are most likely planning a civil law suit. Why not subpoena people in during the civil trial and handle it there?

    I heard the investigator works for the commission and for the family in their upcoming law suit. How can that be objective?

  5. rmagon1910

    I advise Sheriff Prieto to call the FBI and request an independent investigation. If his department conducts the investigation, it will be questioned. The allegation are very serious and questions the integrity of the Gang Task Force.

  6. winelady

    Trilogyjam chose to focus on the Gutierrez incident because NO ONE can justify those officers’ behavior towards that little 8-year-old girl. If she ever had reason to respect “peace officers”, who can blame her for now having only fear and contempt?
    Wow, I sure hope you don’t have children who just happen to live in or near a house where “peace officers” suspect illegal activity, and thus believe they have the right to manhandle those children because they think “children kill too”.
    All that’s left for upstanding citizens like yourself is to hide your intolerance behind an anonymous blog so you don’t have to look anyone in the eye. That’s called cowardice; and using a badge to abuse innocent children is the epitomy of cowardice.
    It’s impossible to justify that female officer’s, and her partners’, actions toward this child……they, and their superiors who perpetuate this behavior, must be held accountable.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    “Did she say it was a bunch of white officers that did this? Maybe you are mixing different events, or you are claiming because they are hispanic that it is automatically racism.”

    I don’t know if I would characterize it as racism, anymore than I would characterize the Gutierrez event as racism. I do know, that Gutierrez was pulled over because he was Hispanic, I don’t know if the Ochoa’s were treated as they were because they were Hispanic.

    I do caution you however from coming to the conclusion that only white officers can mistreat Hispanics for racial reasons.

  8. Ryan Kelly

    An initial internal investigation will work better in getting the officers to come clean about what happened. People will be more apt to clam up if an independent investigation is done. The officers have a right to be silent if they are being investigated for a crime, but a conversation with a manager or employer has more leeway to get at the truth and then result in dismissing the offending person. An independent investigation could only establish a general misapplication of standards or policies.

    Plus, they only seem to read the reports written by those that they are investigating and don’t really do their own investigation.

    Sheriff Prieto is once again caught with not really knowing what his officers are doing. The Courthouse lockout was just an indication that officers are not educated well enough in constitutional and civil rights – basic information any High School student should know.

  9. merixcoatl20

    I have said this from the beginning; the Yolo County Gang Task force, Ed Prieto and Jeff Reisig could have gotten away with the perfect crime.

    Thank God Ed Prieto has a big mouth. No one can believe Ed Prieto anymore.

    How can he conduct an internal investigation when he already believes the little girl is lying?

    I’ve lived in Woodland all my life, and this is the sum of all the racial discrimination i’ve grown up with.

  10. JustSaying

    The more comments about this young girl–most certainly a minor– the more I agree with wdf1’s earlier call that her photo shouldn’t be being used to illustrate these stories. The internet is forever, and some people are not very nice.

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