CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The family of Emilio Mojica has filed suit in federal court against the City of Corpus Christi and the four Corpus Christi Police officers they claim are responsible for violating his rights.
Mojica was killed in October 2019 after his uncle, Francisco Garza, placed a call to CCPD's non-emergency number requesting help because Mojica had taken his grandmother's cell phone and wouldn't return it.
According to court filings, Garza said, "Never in a million years that I would think that calling the cops to defuse the situation would end with my family member dead."
Following the call to the non-emergency number, the suit alleges when a BOLO was issued for a separate 911 call, it was inadvertantly attached to Mojica's address, and officers were told that he was intending to commit "suicide by cop."
When officers arrived, Mojica was holding a child's T-ball bat and was by himself. The suit states that within minutes, officers attempted to subdue him with a stun gun, and it had no effect due to a baggy sweatshirt he was wearing.
He then proceeded to walk away from the officers and was shot in the chest, abdomen, and arm by CCPD officer Phillip Peterson, who at the time was a four-year veteran of the force.
According to the suit, "The City of Corpus Christi Police Department has a practice and custom of utilizing excessive force, and/or deadly force, in non-deadly circumstances. This unlawful use of force is disproportionately against victims who are males of color experiencing mental-health disabilities."
When approached for a response to the suit, city of Corpus Christi City Attorney Miles Risley issued this statement to KRIS 6 News:
“This is a pending civil suit. The Texas Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibit an attorney from making statements regarding a civil suit that might prejudice a jury. Consequently, it is our general policy to avoid extensive comments on pending litigation. Nonetheless, please understand that the statements made by the plaintiff in a complaint are merely unproven allegations. The City of Corpus Christi Police Department extensively trains our officers on the appropriate methods of utilizing force and interacting with persons who are exhibiting signs of mental illness. These interactions must take into account our need to protect our officers and the public from injury.”
CCPD also said it cannot comment on pending litigation.
The suit details 40 incidents dating from 2001-2019, in which men of color were killed or seriously injured by CCPD officers; some with mental-health disabilities.
Further, it states that the city failed to train officers about these events, or alter its training as a result of these events.
Additionally, policies and training programs implemented by CCPD and approved by the city, complainants said, led to the death of Mojica.
The filing states that police utilize PoliceOne Academy for self-directed training, and among the programs offered is warrior/killology training.
In describing the training, it "teaches the officer to be less hesitant to use force against the 'bad guy' contrary to using 'measured and ascending actions,'" according to court documents.
Additionally, the suit alleges that "in October 2019, CCPD had a policy, practice, and custom implemented through final policymaking officials that its police officers were to quickly resolve calls in order that the officer may move onto the next call. This policy, practice, and custom is the moving force behind constitutional violations of excessive force because it causes the responding police officer(s) to escalate the situation to bring the call to a quicker conclusion as in Mojica's case wherein from the time of arrival to time of the use of deadly force was minutes."
Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and are seeking a jury trial.