Daniel Noriega's Unfortunate Encounter with Fire-First-I.D.-Second ICE Agent Spurs Suit
It was previously reported here that the Orange County District Attorney's office would not prosecute a--how did Moxley put it? Oh, yes-- "bumbling federal agent who fired two gunshots at an innocent, unarmed man sitting in an SUV located between him and an occupied Anaheim elementary school."
That won't keep the case out of court, however, as Daniel Noriega is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for civil rights violations.
[Moxley Confidential] Danny Noriego Doesn't Like ICE: Why are government officials protecting an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who almost killed an innocent Anaheim man?
DA Refuses To Prosecute Idiot ICE Agent Who Fired Two Shots At Innocent Man in Anaheim
Here's how 28-year-old union carpenter Noriega explained to Moxley the Dec. 1, 2011, incident at a stop sign near Westmont Elementary School, where he'd just dropped off his child:
"I hear the screech of breaks, and this guy jumps out of his car, points a gun at me and shoots," Noriega recalled about the casually dressed, sunglasses-sporting, tall, Caucasian driving an unmarked sedan. "He didn't say nothing. He just jumps out and shoots."
Fearing for his life, the unarmed Noriega frantically drove around the vehicle ahead of him at the stop sign, sped down several streets by the Anaheim Plaza Shopping Center and onto the 5 freeway.
"All I could think of was 'I got to find help, get protection from the police,'" said Noriega. "I didn't know if he was going to try to shoot me again."
That day, he'd forgotten to bring his cell phone, so he drove north on the 5 to find a payphone from which he could call for help. At a Chevron gas station at Beach Boulevard and Auto Center Drive, he borrowed the business' cordless phone to dial 911.
"Can I get the [police] over here," an obviously unnerved Noriega told the 911 operator at the Buena Park Police Department, according to an audio recording reviewed by theWeekly. "I dropped off my girlfriend's kid at school, and some detective shot at me. He put his front [police] lights on [his dashboard] and took a gunshot at me, and I don't know why."
Noriega assumed the arrival 70 seconds later of a swarm of nearly a dozen patrol units and Anaheim's police helicopter would guarantee his safety. After all, he'd been shot at without warning, called 911, been honest about events and stayed put until cops arrived. But he assumed wrong.
"A cop told me to get on the ground, and he put handcuffs on me," he said. "They were acting like I was the bad guy. They asked me why I left the [shooting] scene. I said, 'What? You think I should stay so he can take another shot at me? I don't think so.'"
After about 15 minutes, the ICE agent who shot at him arrived at the Chevron, where Noriega had been placed in the back of a Buena Park police vehicle. He recalled that the same agent had walked by him at his apartment complex days earlier without saying a word to him.
"[At the gas station,] I thought he was going to say, 'Sorry, this is a case of mistaken identity,' but he doesn't say anything to me," he said. "The other ICE agents are looking at a picture, looking at me and looking back at the picture. I could see them shaking their heads 'no' because I wasn't the guy they were looking for. But they wouldn't let me go. They called me a suspect."
For the next 10 hours, authorities knew they had captured the wrong man but nevertheless kept an innocent Noriega in custody, fingerprinted him, rummaged through his vehicle and, without bothering to get a court order, searched his home.
Rather than admit they'd erred, officials apparently tried to cover up their incompetence by threatening to charge Noriega with--drum roll, please--attempted murder of a law-enforcement officer.
Justin Wiessner, the ICE agent, told the district attorney investigators that he fired the shots because Noriega "intentionally [tried] to ram" his unmarked government vehicle and he believed his life was in danger and required a lethal response. That's ironic because Noriega's lawsuit against ICE argues he acted the way he did because he feared for his life. It'll be interesting to see if a jury agrees unarmed citizens have the same right to defend themselves when they believe their lives are in danger and require a lethal response.
As TechDirt.com reports, Noriega may have something on his side in his suit: a Buena Park dispatcher heard on tape calling the shooting "all FUBAR through ICE"--meaning fucked up beyond all recognition."
Of course, an ICE agent is also heard complaining that Noriega must be lying about his identity, because the agency was looking for Juan Carlos Alcala, a Costa Mesa-based, major international cocaine dealer and fugitive. It's not like the feds could acknowledge they make mistakes, right?
Of course not, because it was several hours before they finally released Noriega, acknowledging the hat and sunglasses the father wore to drop off his child at the school made it unclear whether he was the dude they were looking for. Guess we better start wearing clown makeup before entering school parking lots, fair citizens.