Lawsuit Claims ICE Officers Shot At, Arrested Wrong Man

from the close-enough-for-government-work dept

"Shoot first, be named in a lawsuit later." That seems to be the mindset of certain members of our national law enforcement agencies. Orange County resident Daniel Noriega is proving this (just made up now) adage with his suit against ICE for a cavalcade of harmful errors.

Noriega says he was dropping off his girlfriend's son at an Anaheim elementary school on Dec. 1, 2011, when "all of a sudden, a car quickly pulled up near Noriega. The tires screeched as the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. The UFA [Unknown Federal Agent], without any warning or instruction, without identifying himself as a federal agent or law enforcement officer, without any provocation whatsoever, and while wearing plain clothes, quickly exited his vehicle, pulled out a firearm as he approached Noriega, and fired it at Noriega," according to the complaint.

Noriega, scared for his life, drove around a vehicle in front of him and left the parking lot to escape from the "unidentified attacker that had tried to kill him," he says in the lawsuit.
Unfortunately for Noriega, fleeing for your life from unknown assailants looks to pursuing agents exactly like a guilty person fleeing arresting officers. Noriega then made the next logical move for a person who thought someone was trying to kill him.
Noriega, who did not have a cell phone on him, drove to a nearby gas station and used their phone to call 911. Several officers, including the immigration agent, showed up at the gas station, handcuffed Noriega, and put him in the back of a vehicle, according to the complaint.
At this point, the chain of events is rather hazy. At some point during his detainment, Noriega was accused of trying to kill a federal agent and his vehicle and house were searched. His girlfriend was apprised of these "facts" by another ICE agent during the search of his residence.

The Orange County Register has more details, including dispatch recordings indicating ICE screwed the whole thing up.
An Anaheim police dispatcher, in a recorded conversation with a Buena Park dispatcher, called the Dec. 1. shooting "all FUBAR through ICE" -- using the military expletive for " (messed) up beyond all recognition..."

In dispatch recordings, ICE agent "Nicole " tells a Buena Park dispatcher that the agency is looking for Alcala and that Noriega must be lying about his own name.
Noriega was detained for "several hours" under the pretense that he had tried to kill the federal agent who shot at him, but when all was said and done, ICE dropped the charges and picked up the tab for his impounded vehicle. Despite knowing they had grabbed the wrong guy (ICE was looking for Noriega's girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, Juan Carlos Aclala), ICE still considers Noriega a "suspect," according to his attorney.

This case seems like it might hinge on whether the agent shot at Noriega before Noriega attempted to flee. According to an Orange County D.A.'s investigation, nothing can be determined conclusively. The ICE agent apparently fired at Noriega from INSIDE his vehicle (backed up by a hole in the windshield and a shell casing on the car floor), lending more credence to the assertion that Noriega made an "aggressive" move first. Then again, having an unmarked vehicle suddenly block off yours could prompt a panicked reaction, one that would only get worse when (allegedly) followed by the sound of a gunshot.

However this does play out, the chain of event shows ICE's disregard for public safety in its quest to get its man. Surely there are better places than in front of an open school to attempt detainment, especially if there's potential for the confrontation to turn violent. Its follow-up actions were just as careless as it moved forward with searches of Noriega's vehicle and house without first determining they had the right person.

The ICE officer states in the DA's investigation that he couldn't positively identify whether he had the right person (Noriega was wearing a hat and sunglasses) before making his move to block off the vehicle. The fact that the agent made an aggressive move without positive identification is an indicator of the agency's willingness to accept a certain amount of collateral damage as being "just part of the job."



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 8:09am

    Wait wait wait...

    'The ICE officer states in the DA's investigation that he couldn't positively identify whether he had the right person (Noriega was wearing a hat and sunglasses) before making his move to block off the vehicle.'

    So he couldn't identify whether or not he actually had the right guy, and he opened fire anyway?!

    This is yet another example of how screwed up the system is, in any sane justice system, the guy who was shot at would get a public apology for what he was put through, along with a hefty check to compensate him, and the trigger happy nutjob would be out of a job and facing charges for reckless endangerment and attempted murder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      rw (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:09am

      Re: Wait wait wait...

      So when has anything ICE has done been sane?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Deranged Poster (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:44am

      Re: Wait wait wait...

      And yet people will still defend these aholes saying it's just one isolated incident, that most cops / federal agents / government bullies are really nice guys that are just misrepresented.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Trails (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:12am

      Re: Wait wait wait...

      The agent claims that he opened fire in response to an "aggressive move" by Noriega.

      In other words, the timeline the agent asserts is:
      - While in plainclothes and an unmarked car, I observed someone drive into a school parking lot.
      - I thought he might be the suspect, but wasn't sure.
      - I decided that "might be the guy, but if I'm right he's a dangerous armed drug dealer, let's hope so" + "next to a school" + "I've got no visible law enforcement markings on my car, this'll look like a carjacking" = "dont' be a pussy, takehim down, what could go wrong?". Anyways, he's Mexican so his car is probably full of coke and guns. I smell a promotion!
      - I blocked his vehicle with an aggressive blocking maneuver.
      - He fled my unmarked car that out of nowhere pulled up in front of him with screeching tires, thereby proving his guilt.
      - I opened fire.
      - I am a hero.
      - Noriega continues to flaunt his disregard for my authority, by flagrantly failing to be the narcotics trafficking fugitive we were looking for.

      Again, that's the [slightly editorialized] version of events per the ICE agent.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Bergman (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re: Wait wait wait...

        It might not have even been that overt an act on Mr Noriega's part that "provoked" the agent to open fire.

        If someone screeches to a halt next to your car, you're going to turn and look. A bad guy HAS to turn and look in preparation to drawing and using a gun, if he expects to hit anything. Therefore anyone who turns and looks to see where an unexpected loud noise came from is intending to murder a federal agent, rendering the agent justified in shooting in self-defense.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      drkkgt (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:28am

      Re: Wait wait wait...

      put the two parts together then realize how seriously screwed up this was to even fire a shot...

      he couldn't positively identify whether he had the right person

      at an Anaheim elementary school

      This ICE agent should be removed and their gun credentials revoked permanently as they failed the basic weapon rules.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:55am

    "The ICE agent apparently fired at Noriega from INSIDE his vehicle (backed up by a hole in the windshield and a shell casing on the car floor), lending more credence to the assertion that Noriega made an "aggressive" move first."
    -
    How so? Seems to me that this lends credence to Daniel Noriega. This Rambo cop asshole never got out of his car. How could he identify himself at all as a cop? How was Daniel Noriega to know this unmarked car was for him?
    -
    "Then again, having an unmarked vehicle suddenly block of yours could prompt a panicked reaction, one that would only get worse when (allegedly) followed by the sound of a gunshot."
    -
    No shit. Some unmarked car flies up on me and they will see the bull bar on my truck as its pushing them out of the way.
    -
    The wild west is not on the internet, its alive and well at ICE.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      Indeed, even if the agent got out of his car, but was in it when firing at Noriega, it's quite possible he 'identified' him, then went back to his car for protection when firing on him. Because you know, if you shoot at someone, they're likely to fight back or flee in their car.

      A criminal who realizes it's just 1 guy, or 1 car, and who has a loaded gun would likely fight back. An innocent person would flee regardless of the odds or numbers after them, because some random dude shooting at you without identifying themselves first isn't usually looking for you to surrender.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      No shit. Some unmarked car flies up on me and they will see the bull bar on my truck as its pushing them out of the way.

      If a car flies up on me and I am shot at, I would certainly make every effort to get out of there, regardless to whether I thought the person was a cop or not. I'd make every possible effort *not* to hit the car or even appear to be aiming at the car, but my first effort would be to get away from the crazy person with the gun.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:24am

      Re:

      "The ICE agent apparently fired at Noriega from INSIDE his vehicle (backed up by a hole in the windshield and a shell casing on the car floor), lending more credence to the assertion that Noriega made an "aggressive" move first."
      -
      How so?


      Presumably, if he had time to plan, the agent would normally have taken the time to roll down a window and fire through there, rather than put a hole through his windshield.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        btrussell (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 6:16pm

        Re: Re:

        "...rather than put a hole through his windshield."

        ...ensuring that he has no control over that bullets direction. I'm officer Rick O'Shay.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:09am

    Then again, having an unmarked vehicle suddenly block of yours could prompt a panicked reaction
    Should be:
    Then again, having an unmarked vehicle suddenly block off yours could prompt a panicked reaction

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Deranged Poster (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:16am

    I can't wait for the day when an Unmarked ICE agent pulls up on an Unmarked DEA agent and the two open fire on each other.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:19am

    So let me get this straight: If someone points a gun at me and I run, I give him probable cause to keep shooting and to arrest me if I live. If I stand still, I run the risk of being shot.

    And no one at ICE sees a problem with this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Bergman (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:03am

      Re:

      Oddly enough, that sort of situation is the only one I've ever heard of where a high court has ruled against police.

      In Plummer v. State, the Indiana Supreme Court basically ruled that it's legal to shoot and kill police (in that case a town marshal) if the officer attempts to summarily execute you instead of making an arrest and the alternative is your own death.

      It's not binding anywhere outside Indiana, and AFAIK the US Supreme Court has never heard a similar case, but Indiana common law is the same as US common law.

      There's no guarantee SCOTUS would rule the same way if such a case came their way, but it's common sense that you can lawfully defend yourself against a second degree murder attempt.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Bergman (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:05am

        Re: Re:

        Argh. That first line should be "Oddly enough, that sort of situation is the only one I've ever heard of where a high court has ruled against police when a citizen claimed self-defense against them."

        WTB Edit Button.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Nicci Stevens, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:37am

    This is not surprising. ICE as part of DHS works unfettered and without much, if any, real oversight. Here in my state ICE patrols roads a fair distance from any entry point and routinely pulls over and sometimes detains people who "look Hispanic" when these people are actually Native Americans. It's pretty sad when your ancestral heritage goes back millenia before the people who are arresting you on suspicion of being illegal alien's ancestry go back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 12:18am

      Re:

      While racial profiling, ignorance, and racism are reprehensible, everyone's ancestral heritage goes back the same amount of time into the past. That statement doesn't make sense.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:01am

    "Juan Carlos Aclala"

    Tim, you should know by now ... every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:14am

    it shows how far law enforcement will go to achieve their aim. no one is safe anymore. in fact, it appears that the best and safest place to be is anywhere in fact, away from law enforcement! the very ones who are supposed to keep us safe are more likely 'to make mistakes' and take out anyone that happens to be there, intentionally or not!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:23am

    His own fault.

    "The ICE officer states in the DA's investigation that he couldn't positively identify whether he had the right person (Noriega was wearing a hat and sunglasses) before making his move to block off the vehicle."

    Well, there you have it. Noriega obviously brought it on himself by wearing a disguise in public. Can't blame the cop for that.

    /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    attempted murder!

    This was attempted murder, second degree murder at that. where is the prosecution for that? Does a gov agent get a pass for such a blatant violation of law? Would the suspect get a pass for killing the agent in self defense? NOTICE to Gov., don't disturb the natives, they will get restless and then you will have a whole new problem of a different magnitude.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 1:39pm

      Re: attempted murder!

      Does a gov agent get a pass for such a blatant violation of law?

      If you read the D.A.'s report (http://www.ocregister.com/news/ice-363337-orange-shooting.html) it seems like the problem wasn't that the D.A. didn't want to prosecute it, but that there wasn't enough evidence to get a conviction. Witnesses gave conflicting reports (even though the second agent at the scene appeared to give a different account, they weren't able to see anything other than the periphery.) No camera footage was available, and even the suspect gave a statement that conflicted with the evidence at the scene, that the agent raised his gun and shot outside of the car, when the evidence shows that the agent shot from within the car, through the windshield.

      I suspect if there was more evidence, the D.A. would have brought charges against the agent.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Quiet Lurcker, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 6:55pm

        Re: Re: attempted murder!

        I'm more inclined to think the D.A. is trying to protect the cops and found an excuse in the form of lack of evidence to do so.

        The cop's car was moved (quoting the D.A.) from a position crossing painted lines in the lot, into a marked parking space. I can't see a cop moving his vehicle after shooting someone, so that tells me something's not right.

        There's also something odd about the shooter's windshield having a bullet hole near the mirror.

        And no comment from the D.A. about either of these points.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re: attempted murder!

        I suspect if there was more evidence, the D.A. would have brought charges against the agent.


        I suspect that if the victim were the one who killed the agent, the DA would have absolutely brought charges regardless.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 8:36am

          Re: Re: Re: attempted murder!

          I suspect that if the victim were the one who killed the agent, the DA would have absolutely brought charges regardless.

          I'm not so sure. If they had shot the agent with a gun, yes. If they had hit the agent with the car, yes. But I suspect there would have been vastly more evidence of a crime in both of those cases in which to bring charges against the victim.

          It isn't that I am trying to protect the agent here...I'm just pointing out that the D.A. couldn't bring charges because there wasn't enough evidence. If an agent discharges their firearm to protect themselves or another person, it is legal. In this case I tend to agree with aldestrawk below...this was a keystone cops episode, where the agent was obviously over-aggressive and wrong, and should receive discipline and removed from his position so he can't accidentally hurt anyone ever again under to color of authority.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            John Fenderson (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 11:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: attempted murder!

            I understand what you're saying, but I disagree. I think that if the amount of evidence were identical, but the victim was the one who shot the agent, the DA would bring charges and prosecute vigorously.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 3:11pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: attempted murder!

              I think that if the amount of evidence were identical, but the victim was the one who shot the agent, the DA would bring charges and prosecute vigorously.

              It would depend if the victim had a legal right to discharge a firearm (which is extremely rare in California, where it is against the law to have a loaded firearm on your person in public without a license, which is extremely difficult to get.) The fact that a victim had a firearm, and used it, would be enough for the DA to charge the victim over.

              Now, if the victim had a CCW, and feared for his life, the DA would have had a lot more difficult time.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      David, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 5:29am

      Re: attempted murder!

      This was attempted murder, second degree murder at that. where is the prosecution for that? Does a gov agent get a pass for such a blatant violation of law?


      Uh, yes? That's the whole point of the continuing drone attacks on sovereign ground of non-war nations, without due process and accepting the death of unrelated bystanders.

      Why should U.S. civilians be treated better than others by their government?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Son of Liberty, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    This is simple incompetence. It destroys respect for LEOs, esp. if his superiors go to bat for him over this fu.

    The idea that an agent is willing to fire with so many innocents around without a positive identification staggers the imagination. It's such a basic violation of firearms safety. His mindset is completely incompatible with bearing a weapon. What happens when he thinks he sees America's Most Wanted in a crowded building?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    aldestrawk (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    After reading the report from the DA's office this is what I think happened:
    http://www.orangecountyda.com/docs/daniel_noriega_ois_letter.pdf

    It was a Keystone cops incident. The ICE agent accidentally fires his handgun while exiting his vehicle. After that single shot, Noriega takes off in fear. At the point where he makes a call to 911 at a gas station he knows they were law enforcement but does not know why they shot at him. That agent, and the other ICE agents present, are complicit in covering up the mistake.

    There are multiple agents in more than one car. Ice agent Justin Weissner screeches to a halt right in front of Noriega's GMC Yukon. Agent Weissner is wearing a bulletproof vest with a patch that said "POLICE" across the front and is wearing a badge hanging from his neck. As Weissner exits his car he fires a shot through the windshield just below his rear view mirror. None of the other agents see what happened (sure). Only Weissner claims that Noriega tried to ram him. A law enforcement agent is legally allowed use his gun when a person suspected of a violent crime is fleeing. The man Noriega was suspected of being, was wanted for drug trafficking. The ICE agent is not claiming Noriega was suspected of a violent crime probably because the real suspect was not wanted for a violent crime. Weissner's excuse for firing was that Noriega was threatening his own safety by ramming him, yet Weissner was not yet out of his vehicle. There is only a single shot fired and we all know that given a real threat officers usually fire multiple shots. Also, neither Noriega nor his massive GMC Yukon are hit. For a trained agent, that is not very good marksmanship. Finally, agent Weissner does not pursue Noriega. He stays in the parking lot while the other agents attempt pursuit. The DA is not pressing charges against Weissner because "there are no independent witnesses to the moment of the shooting". It is not clear how many other ICE agents are present but you would think that at least one of them would be watching the suspect and his vehicle at this critical moment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 2:15pm

    More and more it is coming down to fearing law enforcement more than the criminals. Local police are all up to their ears in SWAT and have to use them after they are trained to meet federal guidelines. The local police are obtaining military grade hardware. Crap just this past week, they are getting ex military vehicles designed for handling IEDs. As far as I know no one is setting up IEDs on the roadways.

    Not a year goes by that someone isn't killed in their home by a misidentified address and raid. I am sure for every one we hear of there are dozens if not more we aren't hearing about.

    This whole business has gotten completely out of hand. It's no longer about law and order, it's about putting the victim at risk of life in an encounter with the law.

    More and more it begins to look like the US public is sitting on a powder keg and no one gives a hoot to straighten it out before an uprising occurs. I can not agree with an uprising but it seems the only way anything is going to change.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    wec, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 2:22pm

    Which direction did the shot go. Anywhere toward the school or Walmart?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 4:46pm

    You know how the government is always telling us that a terrorist attack is imminent and you need to fear for your lives? Well life is much more dangerous and frightening than that when you realize the odds of getting killed by a cop are 8x higher than getting killed by a terrorist.
    http://www.cato.org/blog/youre-eight-times-more-likely-be-killed-police-officer-terrorist

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 6:48pm

    Given how callous they are when it comes to handling human lives, anyone else want to try and claim why we should trust ICE to seize the right domains?

    Of course they can't. average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 7:11pm

    So we know that running from ICE gets you shot at, so there is a perfectly logical reason for the gunshot in the windshield.

    If you're sitting in your running car waiting to pick someone up and you see someone barreling at you, what do you do? You do the exact same thing I've seen several other people do in the same exact situation, you try to get the fuck out of the way. Well, now you're fleeing the scene. He probably was so focused on getting out of a wreck, he didn't even hear the first shot.

    This theory would also explain why the agent got out of the car and started shooting. He thought the guy was already fleeing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 7:44pm

    Really?

    Ok, hold on, back up a minute. This guy's name is Noriega and everyone is surprised he's getting shot at?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    me@me.net, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 4:52am

    once shots are fired

    If it's a life and death, I might well run whoever that is down. It's their own doing t that point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This