A Modesto man and his family have filed a claim against the city, alleging police should not have shot the man during an October standoff.
Jesse Montelongo, 36, was shot once just after midnight Oct. 17 at his mother’s Milo Road home. Police have said he was agitated and uncooperative and that he was shot after a confrontation with officers.
Police have said two officers were at the home after the mother called 911, asking for help. Montelongo had been drinking, and he and his mother had argued about his condition, according to attorney DeWitt Lacy, who represents Montelongo and the other family members.
Lacy said the argument had ended and the house was quiet when officers arrived. He said one officer stood outside the home with his gun pointed at the living-room window while the other officer stood about 10 feet from the front door.
Lacy said Montelongo was behind the front door, with the door slightly open. He said the door would not open fully because it was blocked by an air mattress. Montelongo’s two children and his sister’s three children were spending the night at the home. The children were in the home when Montelongo was shot, according to the claim.
Lacy said his client was rude to the officers and tossed a beer can on the porch before telling them to go away. Lacy said Montelongo then tried to close the door, but the officer standing in front of the house rushed to the door and tried to stop Montelongo. Lacy said at some point the officer fired his gun, and the bullet struck the door frame before hitting Montelongo.
Police have identified the officer who shot Montelongo as Dave Wallace. He was placed on administrative leave after the shooting but has returned to duty. Officials have said Wallace has 24 years of law enforcement experience, including 17 with Modesto.
Montelongo’s sister, Victoria Montelongo, who was outside the home, said she heard an officer yell “shots fired” before her brother was shot, according to the claim.
Lacy said Jesse Montelongo was not armed and did not threaten the officers. “While it may not have been tactful to have choice words with the police and speak to them rudely, that is not a crime,” he said. “I think this was a terribly egregious abuse of authority.”
Lacy said he believes the mother may have called 911 after threatening to have police take her son to the “drunk tank” to sober up, but hung up before giving the dispatcher any information.
Police have said the mother asked for help before the call abruptly ended, and the dispatcher could not reach the mother after trying to call her back.
Police Chief Galen Carroll said that while the house was quiet when officers arrived, the mother – who was inside – started yelling for help. Additionally, he said, Montelongo had one of his hands behind his back, and despite repeated commands from officers refused to show them his hands.
Carroll declined to say more because a claim has been filed against the city. City Attorney Adam Lindgren said Modesto is taking the claim’s allegations seriously and that the matter is under review.
Montelongo spent weeks in the hospital recovering from his wounds. The claim alleges assault and battery, negligence and intentional inflection of emotional distress. It seeks more than $25,000 for each allegation.
Montelongo has not been charged with a crime. Carroll said detectives should complete their investigation of the incident within a couple of weeks and then will forward it to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office for review.
Lacy is an attorney with the Law Offices of John L. Burris. The Oakland firm specializes in cases involving police misconduct, and it successfully represented the mother and daughter of Oscar Grant in their lawsuits against Bay Area Rapid Transit after Grant was fatally shot in 2009 by a BART officer.
In Stanislaus County, the firm represented the family of Craig Prescott, who died in 2009 after custodial deputies used a stun gun and pepper-spray projectile to subdue him as they tried to move him to a safety cell. The county paid $565,000 in 2012 to settle the lawsuit. It also paid out $358,000 to lawyers who defended the county.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.