By David M. Greenwald
Modesto, CA – Legendary Civil Rights Attorney John Burris and his legal team held a press conference on Tuesday in Modesto to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of California alleging that Paul Chavez Jr’s civil rights were violated by Modesto Police two weeks ago when they shot and killed the Latino father as they responded to a “family disburbance.”
On July 14, 2022, around 5:30 PM, a Chavez family member called the Modesto police department claiming that Paul Chavez was intoxicated and was creating a family disturbance at their residence in Modesto.
As the officers approached Chavez, one of them began shouting, “drop it, drop it.”
According to Burris’ office, Chavez attempted to comply, but was “inexplicably tased by an officer and simultaneously, without warning, shot twice by another officer, striking him in the left arm and upper left side.”
Chavez died from the gunshots. He was 30 years old, married with three minor children.
John Burris said, “seeing the video is shocking, but worse yet is the realization that it was both egregious and avoidable. The police were called to protect the family, but because they failed to communicate, lack of patience, or worse yet, lack of respect for lives in this community, they destroyed the lives of the people they were called to protect.” Burris says these officers’ conduct has left Chavez’s minor kids without a dad and a wife without a husband.
Police have released the video but did not respond for comment when the Vanguard emailed them on Tuesday.
Burris told the Vanguard in a phone interview, that when the police arrived, “he was wandering outside the yard.” He had a tow hitch in his hand. When the police got out of their vehicle, he was walking around, and they ordered him to drop it.
Burris said, “They tased him within moments and within moments of tased him and shot him twice.” Burris said he believes, “he was not threatening the officers or anyone else.”
He called it, “pretty shocking.” He said, “If the police had just taken the time to talk to the guy in a civilized way, to deescalate the situation. But no, they had to have their guns out pressing the point, and he didn’t do anything to them. He didn’t threaten anybody. He didn’t aggressively pursue anyone. The shooting was pretty shocking. It’s shocking to see them shot him down the way they did.”
Burris believes that they will claim that the tow hitch was a weapon and they told him to put it down.
But he said based on the video, “They certainly can’t claim he was threatening other people and anybody else’s life was in in danger because he was outside on the lawn and the grass.”
Chavez was allegedly under the influence at or near his home but Burris’s office says “he had committed no crime worthy of being shot to death.”
During the press conference, Burris said, “being under the influence is not a death warrant” and that he believed “the shooting was unreasonable and totally unnecessary. The shooting officer’s conduct is so outrageous that he should be criminally prosecuted for murder or manslaughter by the local District Attorney or the State Attorney General.”
Ben Nisenbaum of Burris, Nisenbaum, Curry, and Lacey “BNCL” said, “The officer’s decision to kill Mr. Chavez when he posed no significant threat was criminal, whether it was caused by a panic reaction or cold-blooded deliberation. The results are the same; a young man is dead who otherwise should not be.”
Nisenbaum added, “This shocking new video shows the officers had plenty of safe room to move and step back from Mr. Chavez and deescalate the situation. Instead, in a matter of seconds, they chose to unnecessarily tase and shoot a young father of four to death.”
Burris in his phone interview noted, “This was a case that clearly was avoidable. All they really had to do was take the time. The man was obviously intoxicated. It was, that was clear by everybody. And so all he had to do was talk to him and keep talking to him, take the time to talk to him.”
“They refused to do it. They pressed the point using aggressiveness, with guns pointed at him.”