CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Nueces County district attorney and a Corpus Christi police detective are among the seven defendants added to a wrongful death lawsuit over a shooting that left a teenager dead at the hands of an off-duty state trooper.
Trooper Donald Hinote can be seen in video from a security camera at his home in the early morning hours of July 10, 2019, running up to a vehicle owned by a third party parked on the street in the 7000 block of Clubgate Drive. Ronald "Nano" Elizondo Jr. reportedly was in the car, and Hinote, believing a crime was being committed, can be heard yelling, 'Hey, get out of there!' "
Seconds later, Hinote shot and killed Elizondo.
The attorney for Elizondo's family filed a 40-page amended complaint in federal court recently. It seeks more than $1 million dollars in damages, but the attorney also hopes it changes to the way law-enforcement officers are handled in deadly shooting cases.
“What we’re alleging is that there’s a custom and practice in Nueces County of not holding police officers responsible for these shootings," attorney James "Wes" Bearden said.
Four members of the Nueces County District Attorney's Office are named in the amended complaint. Bearden said his decision to add District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, himself, to the lawsuit comes partially from his handling of the grand jury hearing over Elizondo's shooting death.
“They named the trooper as the victim and my client, who’s now deceased, as the offender," Bearden said. "I don’t know how you do that in Texas. I don’t know how you take a dead man to the grand jury."
Gonzalez released a post on his Facebook page in response to the members of his office being named in the lawsuit.
"We presented the case to a grand jury and they felt no action should be taken," the post reads. "I stand by their decision. I think it does no justice to anyone involved to say that my office is negligent or caused his death AFTER (sic) we are notified once any crime may or may have not occurred. This suit is frivolous and has no merit. Prayers for the family and the trooper involved, as for me and my office....this is what we signed up for!"
In addition to the members of the district attorney's office, the City of Corpus Christi, Nueces County, and Corpus Christi Police Det. Lorraine Matthews were also added to the wrongful-death lawsuit.
Bearden said the way Matthews handled interviewing Hinote soon after the shooting is what led to him being listed as the victim in the case before the grand jury.
Currently, there are no major court dates scheduled, but Bearden looks forward to seeing this case through.
“We’re going to do the best we can, and we’ll see where we go from there," he said. "Eventually we hope to be able to get to a jury, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”