Federal jury awards $21 million dollars of justice to family of pregnant teenager, killed by Fremont police.
It’s been 5 years since Elena Mondragon was killed by Fremont Police in Northern California. Elena, at the time, was two months pregnant, an innocent passenger in a vehicle she had no idea was stolen, leading down a road that would ultimately end with her untimely death.
Fremont Police had been surveying Elena’s boyfriend, Rico Tiger, after he stole a vehicle a few days before police attempted to make an arrest. Tiger was wanted for several armed robberies, none of which Elena was aware of.
Tiger allegedly was followed by unmarked police vans, cornered in a hotel parking lot where he “rammed into a van” and attempted to flee on foot, prompting officers to open fire. Elena was fatally struck several times by police fire.
“A botched covert arrest operation”
After two days, the Jury determined that the culpability of Elena’s death would be split between Rico Tiger and Fremont Police.
“They looked at the situation and who she was and who her family was and decided that her life didn’t matter, that her life didn’t have value.”
“We hope a verdict like this sends the message that police departments need to humble themselves in the face of community demands that they do better, ” Adante Pointer, an attorney for Mondragon’s mother.
The Evidence Room – Reconstruction & Testimony
A team of specialists, led by Crime Scene Reconstruction Expert Scott Roder conducted a comprehensive terminal ballistics case study demonstrating the fatal gunshot wound was delivered after the officers were out of threat of being hit by the care, driven by Tiger.
Scott lead the team to inspect the bullet defects in the car Rico Tiger was driving. His team was successfully able to demonstrate the fatal shot came from Sgt. Miskalla from a 90 degree position whilst under cover from his vehicle.
Roder testified over the course of 2 days at trial which saw heated exchanges between himself and the Defense Attorney Patrick Moriarty, especially when asked if the defense theory is possible… Roder answered its possible that you are a hologram but its not probable…
At one point during the cross examination, the attorney gave Scott a sharpie marker and asked him to draw on an exhibit board.
Roder proceeded to draw the angels of bullets from memory proving his point. While roder finishing up his impromptu drawing at the defense attorney’s request, Attorney Moriarty grabbed the marker from Roder’s hand and said, “that’s enough.” Roder turned to the jury and shrugged.
It was clear that the evidence won the day… this was confirmed with the Jury’s unanimous 21 million dollar verdict…
The jury deliberated for 6 hours before reaching their decision. This was Roder’s 15th time testifying before a jury in a death case.
This trial marks one of the largest settlements linked to the police. And while no amount of money will bring back Elena or the child she was carrying, it does send a message to Law Enforcement. Elena’s death was the result of a botched arrest attempt and in the line of duty for those who brazen the badge, these mistakes are proven to be costly.