Judge Blocks Trial For Fatal Police Shooting, Sticks Victim's Family With Cop's Legal Bill
Anaheim's Bernie Cervantes Villegas held the barrel end of a BB rifle when police officers approached him in January 2012, complied with commands to raise his arms and was nevertheless shot five times and killed though he never pointed the weapon at cops or grabbed for the trigger.
Beware unarmed, Anaheim police protester: Cops will claim they mistook your Disney sign for a gun, kill you, demand immunity from public scrutiny and then win support from reality suspending, country club OC judges
Officers "high-fived" each other after the shooting, according to a defense witness.
That's the version defense lawyers presented in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the trigger-happy shooter, Anaheim officer Nick Bennallack, who six months later also executed an unarmed Manuel Diaz by shooting him in the butt and back of the head.
According to court records, the cop--affectionately called "Buckshot Bennallack" by fellow officers and "Backshot Bennallack" by angry residents--demanded that a jury never see crime scene photographs of the gruesome results of his five shots because jurors might become nauseous by the overkill.
This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney ordered Villegas' surviving family members to pay Anaheim PD's legal bills after refusing to let the lawsuit go to a future jury because, in his view, even if the plaintiff's version of events is accurate, the cop acted "reasonably" in fear for his life.
By law, the judge is required to view the plaintiff's claims in the most favorable light before concluding there is no case worthy of reaching a jury.
But contrary to the aforementioned requirement Carney dutifully regurgitated the police story as pure gospel to make his decision, a shamelessly arrogant move worthy of Ninth Circuit appellate court scrutiny.
The ruling by the 2003 George W. Bush appointee is a triple whammy for Villegas' family: They were left with more than $100,000 in medical bills and funeral costs after the killing; They're blocked from the right to have a jury consider their complaint for damages; and now they will collect the legal bill from the department that killed their loved one.
None of the other cops at the scene with Bennallack thought they needed to fire their weapons even once.
In March, a federal jury rejected the lawsuit filed the estate of Diaz against Bennallack.
After the 2012 killings of Villegas, Diaz and Joel Matthew Acevedo, city residents concerned about police excessive force protested.
The police stress that all men were known criminals.