Testimony by Witness Undermines Official Story at the Scene of the Crime –
One of the key witnesses, described in great detail what she had seen. She provided far more detail than what was made available by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in their report on the incident. She described the incident in great detail and told the commission that she had not seen a weapon, and that Mr. Gutierrez was retreating as he was shot.
Ms. Navarro was driving very slowly on the bridge when she saw three men and Luis Gutierrez. At first, she thought the men were playing around and simply running from one side of the street to the other. However, then she saw them punching and swinging their arms. She saw Mr. Gutierrez exchange punches with one of the officers. She described Mr. Gutierrez’s face as very red, but said there was no blood that she could see.
She was driving about 2 miles per hour very slow and Luis came within three feet of her vehicle and made eye contact with her. He looked very scared, confused, and shocked.
She said, “I didn’t know they were officers until one of their jackets flew open and I saw the badge. And even then I wasn’t really sure, it didn’t click in my head that they were police officers.”
She described that he stopped and turned around. “He was doing this backwards jog type move. It kind of looked like he was turning to see where they were. He turned around and I heard three gunshots as he was doing a jogging motion.”
“I heard three or four or five shots, and I was looking in my rearview mirror and I saw him fall down on his side. When I saw that I took off down to Kate Lane.”
She would not find out that he had been killed until the next day when she looked up the story on the internet and saw the report. She could not believe that he had been shot, since he did not have a gun. It was only later on the internet that she learned that officers were saying that he had a knife.
She said the Chief of Police was the one who interviewed her.
“One thing that I thought was pretty odd, was at one point he had asked me to stand up and demonstrate how Luis was running. He said, so Luis was running like this with his hands and everything. I said yes. And he said, did you notice that I had this knife in my hands the whole time? He had a pocket knife, a black one, that was in the palm of his hands. He said, did you see this? And I said no, I didn’t. He said, how do you know you didn’t just miss the knife [the knife that he alleged was in Luis’ hand]?”
She pointed out that the knife that the Police Chief held was closed. In demonstration with the private investigator, it was clear that if there had been an open knife in Luis’ hands, as the officers allege in their report, she would have seen it.
Her description differs from the report in several key ways.
First, the report makes no mention of the punches that were exchanged by Gutierrez and the Deputies. And yet she clearly saw punches exchanged between Gutierrez and the officers.
Second, she describes Gutierrez as jogging backwards and reports seeing no weapon in his hands.
Here is the way the report reads:
“Ms. Navarro had now passed the law enforcement vehicle heading in the opposite direction, so she continued to watch the incident out of her rear view mirror. She saw the guy the officers were chasing stop and turn around. She did not see anything in the person’s hands. The officers were about 10 feet away from the person. The person backed away from the officers, and Ms. Navarro heard four shots. Ms. Navarro then decided to leave the area. By this time, she was at the bottom of the hill. She did not see the officers’ firearms. She heard the officers yelling but could not tell what was being said. She thought the subject’s arms were swinging as he ran. She did not see him pull out a knife.”
What was not clear from this is that Ms. Navarro was driving very slowly during this time. She had a very clear view of Gutierrez as he was within three feet of her, looked right at him, and did not see a knife in his hands. And yet seconds later he would allegedly have an open knife and would have allegedly lunged at the police according to the report. The interviewing officer tried to convince her that he could have had a weapon and she may not have seen it, but he held a closed knife, an open knife with a four inch blade would have been visible to her. She never reported seeing him lunge at officers, on the contrary, she described him as running backwards with his arms swinging as a jogger’s arms would swing while jogging.
This was key testimony from one of the key eyewitnesses to the shooting that the police had used during their investigation. Her testimony filled in some holes in the police report as it seems clear that she had a better view of the scene and incident than the official report implies.
Tactics of the Gang Task Force Scrutinized
Santiago Ochoa and his wife and daughter described in detail an incident that occurred on April 5, 2009, less than a month before the Gutierrez shooting. The same three Officer Johnson, Bautista, and Oviedo arrived at door looking for his son, Santiago Ochoa Jr was in there. Permission was not given to the men to search the house. They did it anyway.
The police showed up again on the 7th and asked them why they went into the house and took things from the house without permission. He told the commission through his interpreter that the Officer told him, “We don’t have a search warrant, but if you’d like we can get a search warrant so that we can destroy your house, if that’s what you want.”
They came back again, and threatened his nephew with a pistol in hand. They threatened him and told him that if he didn’t tell them where Junior was… But he said he could not say, because he didn’t know.
Then Sgt. Johnson told him, “When this case is over, you’re not going to be here because we’re going to send you to Mexico.”
Finally they came back on June 11 between 8:45 and 9:00 in the morning and they went into the house with a search warrant this time. They knocked very hard, “Open up the f—ing door!”
His wife opened the door, “they grabbed her by the neck and threw her down on the floor with a pistol in [the Sheriff’s Deputy] hand. I came behind her, they did the same thing to me. They tried to slam me on the floor, but I didn’t want that. So they threw me out the door.”
Then Crystal, his then nine year old daughter came behind him, “they did the same thing to her, they pointed a gun at her head and they threw her out after us.”
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.”
The family described the officers intentionally destroying their property. At one point responding to a question as to why they were tearing things apart by saying, “That’s how it should be” and then asking for a hammer.
Chrystal then in English described in vivid detail what happened to her.
“I was eating and they started hitting the door and started saying bad words.” She said she went to go feed her turtle when her mother open the door and they grabbed her and threw her to the ground.
“One of the polices came and they pointed a gun at my head and started taking me outside with the gun at my head.”
She was asked by Justice Reynoso to describe how far the gun was from her head. She was asked to show the commission with the use of her fingers; Crystal pointed to her temple and had her index finger right at her head. When asked again, if that is how close the gun was to her head she said, “Yes, it was right here at my head.”
She was asked what happened afterwards and told them they took her to the emergency room. “They said I was like traumatized.”
Her mother described Chrystal’s ordeal in more detail which would seem to be post-traumatic stress disorder.
“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 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.”
Her father described that he took her to the Sheriff’s Department on the day that this happened because she was still vomiting and he didn’t know what to do and all they would say was they were sorry and she vomited twice in front of them at the Sheriff’s Department.
They took her to the ER, and they kept her there for three hours and this cost $4000.
The problem is persisting even now months later.
“The school is complaining because they’re saying that she’s not doing well. She’s not well. She had an interview with the school counselors, they said to me to take her to a counseling program. But I say, how, I don’t have the money. That’s why she hasn’t been taken.”
Some of the commissioners are now looking into ways to get her some treatment.
The commission also heard from the father of Luis Gutierrez, the private investigator, Frank Roman who has been investigating the incident for the commission and has found the witnesses. He put together a time line of events on the day of the incident. Mr. Gutierrez described seeing his son in the morgue, seeing the gun shot that entered the back of his neck and left through his head, and then describing the horror as they would not let him see his son at first and then dropped a $20,000 bill for funeral expenses.
For full disclosure, my wife, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald is one of thirteen members of the commission, other commissioners in attendance included the Chair Justice Cruz Reynoso, Joan Branin, a lawyer, Bill Kopper a lawyer, Mathew Jacobs, a lawyer, Rev. Vernon Holmes, and Irma Diaz. Testimony continues Sunday from 2 to 5 pm at the Community Room at Woodland Community College.
—David M. Greenwald