Police Abuse

Newly Released Surveillance Footage Shows LA County Sheriff's Deputy Fatally Shooting Jonathan Cuevas While He Was on the Ground [Updated]


Two years ago this October, LA County Sheriff's Deputy Julio Jove told three young men, including 20-year-old Jonathan Cuevas, to halt. They had been out partying and drinking, and they had just jaywalked. It was around 1:45 in the morning in Lynwood, California. When Deputy Jove told the three men to stop, Cuevas ran.

Then, Deputy Jove says Cuevas reached for a handgun at his waist, and pointed the weapon at him. So the Deputy reacted by shooting Cuevas multiple times.

The shooting was minor news at the time, Some small amount of community outrage clearly did not have the hoped-for effect as two years have passed since the incident.

And, to be sure, the newly-released, frustratingly grainy and faraway surveillance footage from that night does not discount the claim of Cuevas pulling a gun. But what it does definitively show is that Jove fired multiple shots at Cuevas as he ran — saving the last one for when Cuevas had fallen on the ground. A WCSH6 Portland report says the autopsy shows at least three bullets had already struck Cuevas, bringing the total to at least four.

A gun was found at the scene, but Cuevas' family's attorney  James Segall Gutierrez claims that it's suspicious because the young man's prints were not found on it. He also counts seven total shots fired by Deputy Jove in the footage.

Now the family of Cuevas is filing a $5 million wrongful death suit against the sheriff's department. Deputy Jove is been back on the force, working street patrol, since his actions were judged "within policy." The LA County District Attorney's office told Reason that they investigate every officer-involved shooting, as does each police department or country sheriff's office. More background on their methods of investigations can be found here, including slightly unsettling details such as "All physical evidence shall remain in the custody of the police agency conducting the investigation." 

Check out the footage for yourself:

Again, whatever else is under debate, Deputy Jove clearly fires his gun at the fallen Cuevas. 

According to Southern California Public Radio, Spokesperson for the Sheriff's Department, Steve Whitmore said the video isn't enough for the public to judge:

"This video that was shown today is partial, small part of this story. It is by no means telling the whole story," he said.

Whitmore said because of the civil lawsuit, he was not able to fully comment or divulge more details of the case but said the department looks forward to telling their side of the story in court.

Whitmore also told Reason, when pressed as to the appropriateness of an officer firing at a suspect already on the ground. "what the video doesn't show is what [Cuevas] was doing on the ground and what precipitated that." Whitemore also said Cuevas was "armed and a gang member" and asked, what if Cuevas was shooting at a deputy while still on the ground?  The correct place for details of the shooting to come out is "a court of law," he continued, and that is where it will come out. Whitmore declined to elaborate as to why it took two years to release the surveillance video of the shooting, or to speak to why Gutierrez is claiming that the gun found on Jonathan did not have his prints.   

Go watch Reason TV on how important cameras are in the fight to keep police accountable. If footage of the Ceuvas shooting has been captured on, say, an on-officer camera, there wouldn't be nearly as much trying to decide which person with a vested interest in telling their story their way was telling the truth.

Hat tip to dogged commenter sloopyinca

Updated: The Los Angeles District Attorney's office emailed Reason the closing letter for the Cuevas case, which they concluded was a "lawful self-defense" on the part of the deputy. 

There's lots here, but Deputy Jove had seen Cuevas and his friends Eduardo Villa Jr. and Ernie Campos "flashing gang signs" at cars. And:

Based on their unusual behavior, Jove believed they were setting him up for an ambush. Jove then saw Cuevas pull a handgun from his front waistband.

As Jove jumped out of the police car, Cuevas Walked southbound on the sidewalk Jove yelled to Cuevas, "Let me see your hands! Let me see your handsl" Cuevas quickly turned his upper body toward Jove. Fearing that Cuevas was about to shoot him, Jove fired one round from his service Weapon. Cuevas began running southbound. As Jove gave chase, he saw Cuevas turn once more and blade his body toward him. Jove ñred another round at Cuevas fearing that he was still trying to shoot him. Cuevas ran a short distance before falling to the curb just north of the northeast corner of Josephine Street and Long Beach Boulevard. Cuevas screamed, "You fucking shot me!" Jove ran up to Cuevas and stood in the number two lane of trafñc on Long Beach Boulevard. He was momentarily blinded by the headlights of oncoming vehicles. The drivers were honking their horns at him as he stood in the street. He could also hear Campos and Villa yelling and cursing at him back at the police car.

Cuevas was lying on his stomach with his hands beneath his body at his waistband. He was aggressively moving his shoulders from side to side. Jove repeatedly ordered Cuevas to, "Let me see your hands, let me see your handsl" Cuevas did not comply and continued to move his body While screaming, "Fuck you! Fuck you! You fucking shot me, you fucking shot rnel" Cuevas began "messing with his waistband" then rolled toward his left shoulder. His right shoulder and knee came off the ground. Cuevas was looking directly at Jove while ignoring his commands to show his hands. Jove believed that Cuevas was attempting to roll over in order to pull the gun from beneath his body and shoot him. He fired a third round at Cuevas. Cuevas rolled onto his back and put his hands above his head. Jove saw the gun falling out of Cuevas' waistband. Cuevas arched his back While cursing at Jove and complaining of pain. Jove ordered Cuevas to stop moving several times before it appeared to Jove that he was complying. Jove turned his attention to Campos and Villa and ordered them to their knees. Cuevas began to move again and his hands lowered toward his waistband. Jove repeatedly ordered Cuevas not to reach for the gun. Cuevas ignored the commands and continued to reach for the gun. In fear for for his life, Jove tired two to three rounds from his service weapon to prevent Cuevas from grabbing the gun. He did not believe he struck Cuevas until the last round when Cuevas said, "Alright already, alright," and put his hands back above his head. Cuevas stopped moving but continued to yell profanities at Jove. 

Unsurprisingly, the statements of Villa is not quite as carefully detailed, but do not detail Cuevas constantly reaching for his waistband. Campos did not know Cuevas very well, and did not he was carrying a gun. Villa's opinion was that Cuevas panicked because he was carrying a Smith & Wesson .38. The DA report includes additional details, including confirmation that four bullets hit Cuevas and five were fired. 

Regardless of whether Jove was in the right, it behoovs us to remember that the penalty for carrying a gun, even illegally, should not be death. And a man who has been shot multiple times would tend to move around a lot. Once again, if you're given the power of lethal, legal force, you should be filmed at all times.

The DA's report concludes:

The evidence examined in this investigation indicates that rather than risk arrest, Cuevas chose to flee from Deputy Jove with a loaded firearm in his hand. Cuevas ignored J ove's commands to show his hands, and instead turned toward the deputy on two occasions as he fled. Cuevas' actions placed Jove in reasonable fear that he was about to be shot causing him to respond with deadly force. 

It is undisputed that Cuevas was moving around once he fell to the sidewalk. Although the witnesses attributed his behavior to pain, they were unaware that he was armed with a gun. Jove believed that his life was in jeopardy when Cuevas rolled from his stomach exposing the gun beneath him and ñred additional rounds. Once on his back, Deputy Jove continued to order Cuevas to stop moving and not to reach for the gun falling out of his waistband. Instead of complying, Cuevas placed Deputy Jove in reasonable fear for his life when he reached for the  gun.

Without a camera, though, you still have to trust law enforcement. As the closing letter notes, "The following analysis is based on reports prepared by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department (LASD), submitted to this office by Adan Torres and Jeff Leslie, LASD, Homicide Bureau." Officials from the DA's office investigate, but there's still a lot of trust to be put in police in these cases. 

NEXT: Chinese Looking at Hitting Japanese Bond Market

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  1. No fucking way that guy pulled a gun. It would go against all normal mechanics of running for him to do so, and would have been obvious.

    Also, if he pulled a gun and pointed it at the cop, why is the cop not even making the most basic attempt to take cover?

    This story stinks to high heaven. It’s like they’re not even pretending to give a fuck about what evidence contradicts the bullshit claims of the police.

    He was “armed and a gang member” as well? How did the cop determine either of those facts in the three seconds that transpired from the time he put his spotlight on them and he started shooting at him? Also, he was a gang member with no criminal record of gang activity whatsoever?

    Motherfucking fuck!

  2. That guy was running awfully fast for someone turning to fire a gun behind him.

    Also, could someone point me to the frames where the gunman is securing the weapon that the citizen he had just gunned down was supposedly brandishing?

    After all, if I had to shoot someone who was still trying to kill me despite having three bullets in him, I would be taking his gun away as quickly as possible.

    Maybe I missed that little bit…

    1. If you execute them while they are lying on the ground, tarran, you don’t have to secure the weapon immediately. See? Why do I have to explain everything to you, including tachyon fields?

      1. Once again we see how clueless you are about the real world Episiadork.

        Watch the video. See that guy wiggling and writhing n the ground?

        That’s the guy after he got shot a fourth time. Unlike Star Trek, in the real world, when you ventilate people with tiny bullets, they don’t immediately die.

        1. I can’t WTFV, I’m at work. But that won’t stop me from telling you what you saw and I didn’t, which is that the cop looks exactly like Adrian Zmed.

          1. Well… that is actually a true statement.

    2. We have to let a jury decide these facts, people. In a civil trial, not a criminal one like normal people would get.

      1. normal people routinely are nolle pross’d just like cops or anybody else.

        this is a false claim of a double standard.

        juries are not given the opportunity to decide when there is not sufficient evidence of a crime to charge them

        “we” don’t have to let a jury decide anything. juries decide on a criminal trial when there are enough facts to charge a crime. whatever the shooter’s career happens to be

        what kind of “civil trial” are you referring to here, sloop? a lawsuit?

        1. This is a perfect case for a Grand Jury and you know it, asshole. That’s what they do: determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge the shooter. And in this case, there’s no reason it should not have been presented to one. There were several witnesses and video of the incident.

          You just can’t bring yourself to call for even a Grand Jury in this case, can you? It’s better for this to be investigated by the shooter’s co-workers, who also refused to release the video of the incident for nearly two years.

          You are scum.

        2. How many people who are on tape shooting someone, and have multiple witnesses against them, don’t at least get referred to a grand jury?

          Just one example, please.

  3. There is a guy in Oklahoma doing life for double tapping some asshole who tried to rob his store. The cop shot someone who was obviously no longer a threat. That is straight up murder.

    1. We don’t know all the facts. We have to let the procedures work. Retraining. Officer safety.

      1. No one told him you couldn’t shoot an incapacitated person. He clearly wasn’t trained properly. It wasn’t his fault.

        1. I’m sorry, but does the union contract specifically prohibit police officers from murdering people?

          Because if it doesn’t, the city is going to have to pay for any loss of pay he incurs.

          1. Plus he’ll have a grievance for “emotional distress” – pay up, bitches!

            1. i see the trolls are out in force. without an argument, but with silly pithy meaningless drivel.

              plus ca change

              1. Who are the “trolls” you speak of? The people that came on here and gave their opinions before you showed up?

                And everyone is making an argument except you. Your posts are a) nonsensical defenses of the officer without any supporting statements or b) namecalling of people that do not bow and scrape at the altar of the Big Blue God of Violence.

                Seriously, what is your argument that this was either a good shoot or not worthy of a Grand Jury? Is it the cop’s word, which is contradicted by every witness? Is it the gun, which was conspicuously absent from everybody else’s vision (including the camera’s) and had no prints on it? Or was it something else?

    2. wait a second.

      are you referring to the incident we covered here? if so, EVERYBODY realized that guy went way overboard. not sure if same incident, but this was a guy he had already shot, who was just lying there barely alive, and the storeowner just casually stood over him and methodically emptied his gun into the guy

      not sure if same story, but if was, that’s one of the 1/1000 store owner robbery cases i;ve seen that wasn’t justifed

  4. suspicious twitches are not a joke. moving around when getting shot by a police officer is just dumb.

    1. moving writhing around when getting shot by a police officer is just dumb natural


      1. totally agree. but irrelevant as to whether the shots subsequent to same were justified

        1. Even the ones that happened when the cop was standing right over the guy?

          Also, he shoots twice while standing right over him. You can see them both in the video. Now, he was hit 4 times and 3 of them were in the back. Either the cop missed him while standing over him or he shot him at least once in the back at point blank range, which would make at least one shot unreasonable/unjustified force.

          Seriously, if you’re defending this cop, offer up your defense beyond deflection and name-calling. So far, that’s all I’ve seen come out of you.

          If there’s a bigot here, it’s you asshole. You’re bigoted against “civilians,” especially the black ones that are more often than not the targets of this police on “civilian” violence.

    2. Wounded person lying on the ground isn’t a threat until they have the gun in their fucking hand. I seriously doubt a person who just fell on the ground after getting shot three times is going to be a quick draw.

      1. thats simply not true tulpa.

        btw, here;’s a case not exactly on point. but to put it briefly, the WA cop shot the guy and disarmed him.

        AFTER the guy was shot three times in the torso and WHILE being handcuffed, he pulled out a second gun and shot and killed an officer.

        i brought this case up in another thread here.

        in that one a person here claimed that after the officer disarmed a shooter of the gun he used in the shooting BUT BEFORE HE HAD BEEN COMPLETELY SEARCHED, and then the officer subsequently shot thye guy when he reached for his waistband

        the argument here was that since the guy no longer had “the gun” that he used in the shooting (iirc he kicked it away, but not 100% sure), that the officer had to assume he was thus UNarmed. a dumb assumption, and in fact as a firearms instructor we teach you MUST assume ther eis another gun if he had another unless and until he is completely suearched

        back to this case, we’ve seen guys do astounding physical feaTS AFTER BEING SHOT


        1. You’re assuming that the victim in this story actually had a gun and drew and pointed it at the officer (the cop’s own words), even though it would contradict the video evidence, which shows a person running away and no obvious shadows or visible turning of the body or arm to face the officer.

          Also, no fingerprints. Not even a partial, fuckface. How do you explain that?

          1. He OBVIOUSLY had his fingerprints burned off, Men In Black style. Thus, he de….shit, I can’t do this. I can’t even mock him through parody anymore, it’s just too fucking disgusting.

            1. you didn’t mock me through parody. you just misstated my position and made silly little comments

              just like here. you are making assumptions about my position. do you even know if i think this is justified or not?

              of course not

              you will of course refuse to actually analyze the case facts and apply UOF law. that’s what people do in shootings

    3. i would not be surprised at all if the “twitches” AFTER he was shot initially by the cop were NOT an attempt to grab the gun, but instead a writhing in pain type thing

      regardless, it does not matter under the law WHY he WAS doing so. what matters is did these movements give the shooter reasonable cause to believe he was still a threat and attempteing to get his gun out

      if SO, then those shots are justified. it would be tragic if in fact the guy was not trying to reach for the gun but in fact was writhing in pain. tragic, but understandable


      1. So a cop can unload a gun into a prone victim who has already been shot multiple times, and does not have a weapon in hand, and all he has to do is say “I was skeered” and that’s it? Really? So the store owner who calmly unloaded his gun into the guy on the ground doesn’t get to claim being scared, but the cop does.

        I get it.

        1. Hey, a twitching, mostly-dead person with 4 gunshots to the torso can cover 21 feet in the time it takes to empty the rest of the magazine into his almost-lifeless body. It’s like you haven’t heard of the Tueller drill.

        2. except that’s nowhere near what i said, nor did i say it applied exclusively to cops

          the reality is i understand the case law. you clearly do not

          that’s wonderful, but shows why it is pointless to have a conversation with you, and why most of the adult ones happen at volokh. because 1) people understand the law 2) when they don’t, they listen to those that do

  5. I especially like the fact that they released the video on a Friday when the middle east was erupting in anti-American violence.

    Nope, no reason to be suspicious at all when they do something like that and release a video that contradicts their claims.

    The comments from the local NPR’s story on this are appalling. They either say the kid was a punk or that he shouldn’t have had a gun because they’re icky and only killers carry them.

    Fucking retards.

  6. It’s a good thing dunphy is off work so he can come on here and tell us that since procedures were followed (procedures like having the department keep all the evidence and that they get to investigate themselves), there is no problem with this.

    I’m convinced that cops no longer consider the law applicable to them; that they can tell us our eyes are lying when we watch an officer execute a man like this, after he fires randomly into an intersection, for jaywalking.

  7. What’s the big deal, jaywalking should be a death-penalty offense. Same goes for illegal parking, living at an address with some of the same digits as someone with a warrant, and showing insufficient deference to authoritah.


  8. The correct place for details of the shooting to come out is “a court of law,” he continued, and that is where it will come out.

    So, they are prosecuting the cop for murder so that the details can come out in court?

  9. So there’s FAR more evidence against the claim of self-defense in this case, yet this cop is a free man while Zimmerman rots in jail.

    1. Cops are not required to make a self-defense claim. Just ask the commentors from this story.

      Ex: Posted by wbkiphart@slmpd.org on Monday, September 17, 2012 07:52 AM Pacific Report Abuse

      Thanks for the column and it is properly named.

      Being a warrior is a state of mind and a lifestyle choice. Anyone who has issue with the use of the term warrior simply has not grasps the concept; and the fact is that many can not or choose not to. And for them, that is fine.

      I of course protect everyone in my charge; where I walk, there shall be peace; one way or the other. But in my mind a protector is on the defense waiting for evil to arrive; it is a reactive philosophy. I am a warrior; I actively seek out and hunt evil at all times and in all places. I am not waiting to fight evil; I am seeking to engage it. I am what evil sees in its nightmares.

      And in the dark of the night, when I prowl the streets hunting for evil that is praying on those I have sworn to protect; my family is home asleep. And if evil should attempt to prey on them, I pray a Warrior is the first one there to answer their call for help.

      Sgt. WBK

  10. This case is a perversion of justice. It should have been in the hands of a grand jury, not the local IA rubberstamp office.

    Double-standard at play.

  11. I expected dunphy to disappear as soon as somebody called on him to offer up evidence supporting the cop’s bullshit claim.

    He doesn’t care about justice as much as process. And he doesn’t care about “civilian” justice as much as he does union power.

    I’m kinda glad he’s gone off the deep end lately. It’s exposed him for the scumbag he really is. Whether it’s saying there should be a double-standard or that cops shouldn’t be accountable for following changes to a law unless they have specifically been trained on the changes to said law, he’s proven over and over again that he, and his fellow “professionals” are not up to the task of providing public safety.

    I feel bad for the people of the Seattle area because dunphy sounds like an awful policeman. Unfortunately, that’s par for the course up there, where cops are either shooting/assaulting people with impunity, are actively covering it up or are willing to play along with the coverups to protect the thick blue wall.

    1. Like most who seek out a job that gives them the power to injure and kill without consequence, it was only a matter of time before his facade broke down, exposing him for the animal that he is.

    2. Dumby’s no cop. How often must I say this?

  12. Its PUNK cops like this I jsut love to hear about in the news getting clipped in the line of duty!


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