Mission PD accused of excessive force

The city of Mission is defending itself and one of its police officers against accusations of excessive force following a January 2017 incident in which an officer shot a Mission man in the stomach.

Attorneys for the city of Mission appeared in federal court Monday for the first hearing stemming from a lawsuit filed in December against the city and a Mission police officer, Teodoro Rodriguez Jr.

Mission resident Steven Wilson, 51, who in January 2017 was shot in the stomach by Rodriguez, filed the lawsuit.

Mission police officers found themselves at Wilson’s home after receiving complaints from neighbors that Wilson was running naked through the streets.

According to Wilson’s amended complaint, filed in April, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia for which he takes medication. Because of his diagnosis, he also lives with his mother, who cares for and assists him with his illness.

The day police officers were called to the scene, Jan. 9, 2017, Wilson suffered “a mental health episode,” Wilson’s attorneys wrote in the complaint.

At the scene, police officers entered Wilson’s home and found him in his bedroom with the door locked.

“Officers could not enter the room, but they could see through a window that Steven was unarmed and laying in his bed,” the complaint stated. “The officers could also see that no one else was in the room with Steven and that Steven was not injured.”

Officer Rodriguez, who was positioned outside of Wilson’s home, fired a shotgun at Wilson with a breaching round, or a shot meant to break doors down.

Wilson was severely injured, according to the complaint, and spent the next month in the hospital undergoing surgeries to treat his gunshot wound from which he allegedly sustained permanent injuries.

The officers arrested Wilson and he was charged with public lewdness and terroristic threat of a family/household to which he later pleaded guilty.

However, Wilson is now accusing Rodriguez of using “unreasonable” force against him and causing injury, which his attorneys argue violated his Fourth Amendment Right to be free from “unreasonable seizure of his person.”

Wilson also accuses the officer of being negligent, claiming he misused his gun.

“After the incident, Rodriguez told MPD (Mission Police Department), including Police Chief Robert Dominguez, that his use of a breaching round was a mistake and that he believed he had loaded his shotgun with a ‘beanbag round,'” Wilson argued in the complaint. “A ‘beanbag round’ is specially made to render a person immobile and, in contrast to a breaching round, is designed to deliver a blow that does not penetrate.”

The city, in its response, denied most of the factual allegations Wilson made in the complaint and argued that the use of force “was necessary under the circumstances and was in every way constitutional.”

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who is presiding over the case, set several deadlines for the case, including a deadline for discovery due by Dec. 16. However, the next hearing is currently scheduled for March 2020.

bereniceg@themonitor.com