By Brinda Kalita, Alice Yang, Oliver Camarena, Matthew Torres
WOODLAND, CA- The evidence in the trial for Dustin Lee Paiz wrapped up here Tuesday in Yolo County Superior Court, and the jury began its deliberations.
Paiz is charged with felony evading a police officer, receiving stolen property, resisting and obstructing a police officer, and driving on a suspended license.
The first witness that was called knew Paiz and claimed he had come over to see people who live in the house a few times.
The police kept him outside for three or four hours after the incident, said the witness, adding that when he came back to the house, he saw Paiz with a mark on his eye.
Officer Lopez stated that he received a call about an ongoing pursuit while at the intersection of Jefferson and F. He then positioned himself at that intersection and remained there as the pursuit was heading his way.
The camera in the officer’s car was then played to give reference of the events taking place on the intersection of Jefferson and F. The officer was asked if he had any training to gauge the speed at which a vehicle was going.
Lopez responded that he had taken a course to determine the speed of cars on the road and was accurate within five miles during that course.
He then estimated that the speed of the vehicle in the pursuit was at least 70 miles per hour on a 35 mile-per-hour road. He added, from his angle, he could not tell if the car had run a red light or not. He began pursuit with another pursuing patrol car to follow the speeding car.
During the pursuit, the two patrol cars had taken different turns, leading to Lopez being the first one to find the vehicle that was being pursued. Once he approached the vehicle, he found that it was not occupied but then heard the sound of a flimsy wooden fence flex as if someone climbed over it.
Lopez approached the fence and did a visual inspection of the area but found nothing. He then saw a man and child walk out of the house that the fence surrounded and asked them if anyone was inside the house, to which the man replied no.
A perimeter was then established to try to contain the area where the suspect was believed to be, said the officer, who said he made several announcements over the three-hour incident, including stating that they knew Paiz was inside and that if he didn’t come out K-9 units would be sent in to find him and he would be bitten.
At the end of the three hours, however, the perimeter was taken down for a reason Officer Lopez did not know, and he repositioned himself down the street.
A drone team that was left above the house after the perimeter had been taken down observed and reported that someone was leaving the house on a bicycle. Officer Lopez identified the biker as Paiz and told him to stop.
Lopez then reported that it appeared that Paiz started biking harder in an attempt to gain more momentum. Lopez attempted to shove Paiz off the bicycle unsuccessfully before continuing to pursue him.
He said he was eventually able to grab hold of the hoodie Paiz was wearing and pull him off the bicycle and secure himself over Paiz while he placed him in handcuffs.
It was noted that Officer Lopez was in full police uniform, in a patrol car that was fully marked as West Sacramento Police Department, and the incident occurred entirely in Yolo County.
Lopez saw a photo of how Paiz and he looked the day of the incident and it was noted that Paiz had a black eye in the photo.
Lopez was asked if he talked to a witness about how Paiz received the black eye, and it was stated that he was jumped by two or three guys while dropping off his sister at a hotel.
During cross-examination, CAD (computer aided dispatch) logs, which have vital information pertaining to the information being transmitted between officers and dispatch, were brought up and Lopez was asked if he had been given a physical description of the suspect who was driving the car that was being pursued.
He said he was not given a physical description and was not aware of what Paiz looked like during the initial pursuit and a tattoo on the neck of Paiz was not communicated.
Only after the pursuit was Officer Lopez given a photo to identify Paiz.
Officer Lopez was noted to not be on the Brady List, a list of officers who had been caught in the past with untrue testimonies.
Lopez was then asked if he ever asked Paiz if he wanted to press charges against the people who jumped him and gave him the black eye. He did not, said Officer Lopez, and no investigation was even made into the assault against Paiz.
The questioning then went back to the original pursuit of the speeding vehicle when Lopez said he could not tell the color of the stoplight and that there have never been tests done by the department to determine the difference in vision between the officers and what the camera on the patrol car captures.
The camera was set to a panoramic view, meaning it could see further left and right, and the officers could see further away than the camera.
Then, going back to the failure of an assault being reported against Paiz, Lopez was asked about the reporting process of a crime and he said that the victim reports the crime, the officer contacts the victim and tries to collect as much information as possible which leads to an investigation.
He didn’t know if Paiz had reported the incident and went on to say that it was a fair assessment; they only investigate reported crimes.
During another cross-examination, the point was made that not only victims report crimes to create an investigation, but any credible person with information that is brought to the attention of the police.
The prosecution then attempted to call their next witness, Officer Cameron.
However, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira objected to Officer Cameron being called. She believed that Officer Cameron’s testimony would simply be a summary of testimonies given by previous officers.
Ultimately, Judge Timothy Fall allowed Officer Cameron to give his testimony, under the condition that both the prosecution and the defense attorneys would ask questions about subjects that the other officers were not asked about.
Judge Fall added that Officer Cameron would step down from the stand if any of the answers were the same as answers given by previous officers.
In his testimony, Officer Cameron shared that he and his team of officers set up a drone in the area in which the Paiz was suspected to be at the time. Cameron’s team watched over the area for over three and a half hours. They did not see Paiz at the time.
DDA Warren then played the video taken by drone. In this video, there was footage of Paiz as well as Officer Lopez who left his vehicle.
In cross-examination, DPD Sequeira asked if Officer Cameron had ever been on the Brady List. Officer Cameron responded in the negative.
The next witness called was Parole Officer Johnny Lee.
Officer Lee revealed Paiz was supposed to meet with him on July 15, 2021, however, Paiz didn’t show.
Officer Lee then tried to get ahold of him by phone, but Paiz never picked up. Officer Lee also even went to Paiz’ home but never found him.
DPD Sequeira, DDA Warren, and Judge Fall then spent the rest of the morning discussing the rules for the jury.
Before counsel both gave their closing statements, Judge Fall explained to the jury that in order to find the accused guilty of evading an officer with reckless driving, four elements must be met beyond a reasonable doubt.
Of the four elements, the one most focused on during the closing arguments was the third which states: During the pursuit the accused committed three or more traffic violations.
In her closing statement DDA Warren played the video footage for the jury, pausing periodically to highlight occurrences she felt were traffic infractions.
In her examination of the video, she concluded there were more than nine traffic violations from the time Officer Barrontes of the West Sacramento Police Department began pursuing Paiz.
With the defense’s closing statement, DPD Sequeira began by calling into question the credibility of Officer Barrontes, who she charged is on the Brady List, and some of the evidence he testified for could not be corroborated by video evidence.
An example she gave was the officer’s initial description of the defendant.
“Barrontes testified that he ID’d the driver because he could see a tattoo on his neck,” stated DPD Sequeira. “That’s one example of his reckless indifference to the truth. Because the reality is my client’s tattoo is not on his neck but further down his neck and chest area that is visible if the shirt has a low neckline.”
She addressed the jury stating, “What I’m asking you to do is to find based on the cross-examination, based on his status on the Brady List, and based on his testimony that he testified at the preliminary jury trial about things that were untrue, take all that into consideration and discount his testimony.”
She concluded her time replaying the video the jury was shown earlier, playing the video in slow motion in its entirety, while attempting to poke holes in the prosecution’s claims. She informed the jury that nothing she or the prosecution tell them regarding these videos are evidence, only their opinions.
In her rebuttal, DDA Warren felt obligated to show the jury the video a third time while pointing out the same traffic violations. She stressed the facts to the jury, reminding them they only need to find three traffic violations to find the defendant guilty of evading an officer with reckless driving.