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.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, 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.
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..."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.
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.
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."