Testimony underway in inmate death case

May 28, 2008 4:33:38 PM PDT
The prosecution has begun building its case against two Pasadena police officers who are accused of fatally injuring a man who they say was resisting arrest. Officers Jason Buckaloo and Christopher Jones are charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Pedro Gonzales on July 21, 2007. A sea of blue uniforms filled the courtroom -- about a dozen Pasadena police officers came out to the trial to support fellow officers Jason Buckaloo and Christopher Jones.

"I don't think it has an effect on the jury," said Assistant District Attorney Joe Owmby. "I think what has an effect on juries is you have to concentrate to follow the evidence. It doesn't come in usually in a form that people who have never served on a jury before have seen."

The first witness, Isaac Villarreal, was a lead investigator on the case. Under cross-examination, he explained that knee and elbow strikes, which Buckaloo and Jones used when trying to restrain Gonzales, are taught at the police academy. He said officers are trained to target the torso and back area, and to hit as hard as they can, no matter the person's size.

Jones' attorney, Scott Courtny, explained, "Our clients acted in accordance with their training. They did what they were trained to do, in accordance with the policies and procedures. They accepted and met this, using force against a citizen who was resisting arrest."

The two officers have said they suspected Gonzales was drunk, even though he had only been out of jail for about an hour for a prior public intoxication arrest.

"He only had 64 cents in his pocket, and they claim that he was drunk," said Adrian Gonzales, the victim's son. "Pasadena is dry. They only sell beer. When they let him out, he had 64 cents. Where are you going to get a beer with 64 cents?"

Jurors also heard from a former jailer who had seen Gonzales come and go from the jail. He said Gonzales was always jittery and shook a lot. Gonzales had 11 broken ribs and died from a punctured lung.

If convicted, the two officers face a maximum of two years in jail.

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