Video contradicts allegation of officer on leave for home invasion before he shot man in head, attorney says – NBC Chicago
An off-duty Chicago police officer said a man he shot in the head last year was trying to break into his home. A new lawsuit argues that is not what happened – and the man’s lawyer says surveillance videos of the incident tell a very different story.
The lawsuit filed in federal court last month argues Jose Mendoza, 33, was unarmed and posed no threat when he was shot in the head by Officer Iwan Smith at small morning hours of March 31, 2021.
Footage from body-worn cameras of responding officers after the shooting shows Smith saying he believed the man was trying to break into the apartment he shared with his girlfriend and child in the Albany Park neighborhood of the city. Mendoza was arrested and charged with home invasion, burglary and criminal trespassing.
But Mendoza’s lawyer says otherwise, pointing to surveillance videos from inside the building that show what happened.
“It wasn’t a break-in, it wasn’t a home invasion,” Mendoza attorney Thomas Glasgow said. “To characterize it as such is simply absurd.”
Glasgow says Mendoza was out drinking, planning to spend the night with a friend and simply entered the wrong building. Surveillance video released by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency that investigates allegations of use of force against officers, appears to show Mendoza was barely able to stand when he walked into the building at 1:13 a.m.
The timestamp on the recording shows that Mendoza even sat on the stairs at one point, remaining in the building’s vestibule for nine minutes after he entered before he could be seen walking up the five steps from the vestibule to the apartment. of the first floor, occupied by Blacksmith.
“My client was not a trespasser – there are no lever marks on the door,” Glasgow said. “No force is used, no force is applied. You are dealing with someone who is simply intoxicated.
After standing in front of the apartment for a few seconds, Mendoza can be seen crouching on the ground in front of the door, which is not in the camera’s line of sight. A flash of light indicates the door is opening, at which point Mendoza stands up. Seconds later, he collapses to the ground, bleeding profusely from a head wound.
“When the officer opened the door, he was sitting on the floor,” Glasgow said. “When the officer opened the door, he stood up, and when he stood up, the officer shot him in the head.”
After a few seconds, the video shows Mendoza flying backwards. Glasgow said the officer kicked him out of the way and closed the door.
“Officer Smith never searched the plaintiff to determine if he possessed a weapon,” the complaint read. “At no time did Constable Smith attempt to provide first aid to the plaintiff.”
Indeed, the timestamp on the video indicates that it was not until six minutes after the shooting that Smith can be seen opening the apartment door and stepping over Mendoza when police arrived after being summoned by Smith’s girlfriend. Smith, who called 911. Carrying his service weapon and displaying his badge, Smith quickly identified himself as a fellow Chicago police officer.
“He knocked on my door,” Smith can be heard telling arriving officers on captured body camera video posted on the COPA website. “As I approached to open it, he pushed it. And I tried to close it, he just pushed, he forced his way in and I didn’t know what…”
Mendoza lost much of his vision but survived the gunfight. Glasgow said his client was suffering from other lingering effects and nearly a year later was still being held without bond in Cook County Jail.
“The fact that my client was shot for the sole reason that he was drunk is incredibly disturbing,” Glasgow said. “He was not in violation – he entered an area that you or I could have entered.”
“It was very painful to see these videos,” Mendoza’s mother, Rachel Mendoza, told NBC 5 Investigates. “It tears my heart out and I’m trying to be strong. It’s very difficult.”
Glasgow said the Cook County State‘s Attorney’s Office opted to prosecute Mendoza in court in an earlier DUI case before pleading the alleged home invasion. And he said that prevented him from quickly proving that what started out as an attempted break-in was contradicted by the video evidence.
“If it was you or I who committed the acts committed by the police officer, we would probably be in jail without bail for attempted murder,” Glasgow said. “You can’t just open the door and shoot someone in the head.”
The officer’s attorney did not respond to request for comment. Smith was relieved of his police powers in June 2021. COPA’s investigation into the shooting continues.