Officer James Moody Cleared of Unlawful Killing of Ernesto Duenez

Officer James Moody Cleared of Unlawful Killing of Ernesto Duenez

OFFICER JAMES MOODY CLEARED OF UNLAWFUL KILLING OF ERNESTO DUENEZ JR. - On June 8th 2011 Police Officer James Moody, followed the vehicle of Ernesto Duenez Jr., to his home and upon arrival order Ernesto out of his vehicle, a few seconds later Office Moody had shot and killed Ernesto Duenez Jr.

What transpired was clearly a disturbing set of circumstances, as can be seen in the video, that resulted in Officer Moody discharging his firearm 13 times at Ernesto of which resulted in 11 gunshot wounds, two of which the coroner ruled as fatal.

At the inquest into Officer Moody’s conduct hearing the Manteca Police Department defended his actions due to the video clearly showing that Ernesto had a knife and that Officer Moody reacted with reasonable force in order to protect himself.

However, the family strongly denies this claim and took action against Manteca Police Department and Officer Moody.  The District Attorney’s Office has sided with the Manteca Police Department and Officer Moody stating that is was clear from the footage that Officer Moody could see Ernesto carrying what was described later as a throwing knife.

Can we really justify this type of killing by a police officer?  While it is plain to see that this really is disturbing there remains so many questions, such as what is reasonable force and was Officer Moody right to use such force.  As his family has pointed out; was it necessary to shoot 13 times in less than 4 seconds and would it not have been more reasonable to aim for the lower extremities of the body?

I am afraid as I write this there is no right or wrong solution to this dilemma as the problem lies within society itself and the ease of which deadly weapons can be obtained.  The United States has a high profile gun culture and as such violence often be gets violence.

So far, after researching this particular case, I have seen hundreds of comments, some saying that what Officer Moody did was well beyond reasonable force while others defended his actions.  So what have we got and indeed what can we learn?  Here are some of the known facts and assumptions:

1. It is clear from the video footage that Officer Moody did notice and weapon and you can hear him repeatedly tell Ernesto to put the knife down.

2.  What Officer Moody was not aware of at the time was the fact that Ernesto’s erratic movements were due to his foot being caught up in the vehicle’s seat belt – his struggling was therefore interpreted by Officer Moody as an act of aggression.

3. Was Officer Moody wrong to fire 13 shots?  Ernesto was quite a large guy and a single shot may not always be sufficient to bring a perpetrator down. Officer Moody would have been well aware of this fact due to his training.  What he would have also known was that a handgun is not the most accurate of firearms and therefore multiple shots are required in order hit a target.  Consider how close Officer Moody was and that of the 13 shots fired only 11 found their target and entry wounds ranged from the head, chest and lower extremities.

4. Consider yourself in this situation for a moment.  You are facing a person with a history of violence – do you not think that this would cause you to take measures, however extreme they may appear to others, in order to ensure your own safety?

5. Police Officers, such as Officer Moody, are trained and put in harm’s way every single day in order to ensure the liberty and safety of the public.  With the high levels of gun crime in the United States is it not reasonable to determine that Police Officers are often in situations where his/her life is on the line and that natural instincts will take over in order to preserve it.

I am sure Officer Moody, just like all other decent, hard working Police Officers, regrets taking the life of another but with his and others safety at risk, the evidence of a lethal weapon, human emotion, fear and adrenaline, these situations will not only occur but the public should accept the fact that they will occur more frequently as society becomes more violent.

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  • Dobraya Utka

    The article says, “I am afraid as I write this there is no right or wrong solution to this dilemma as the problem lies within society itself and the ease of which deadly weapons can be obtained.”

    So, all of society is to blame for a police officer’s murderous actions. That is very interesting, but that is not acceptable.

    There are many alternatives to what Officer Moody did. For one, he could have retreated to a protected place (in his view; since he was not in any real danger), and called for backup.

    • meebal

      Yes, he could have done many things but in the heat of the moment humans react naturally to protect themselves. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

      What would you have done in such a hostile situation? It’s easy to judge when given time to consider all the factors but again in ‘the moment’ it’s invariably quite different.