A wrongful death lawsuit against the city of McMinnville, Oregon and three police officers was dismissed on November 7 in the Portland Division of the United States District Court.
Juventino Bermudez-Arenas was shot and killed by McMinnville police three years ago. His estate had filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit in November 2016. The federal suit accused officers Brian McMullen, Justin James and Sgt. Rhonda Sandoval of using excessive force in violation of Bermudez-Arenas’ civil rights. It accused the city of not training its officers in the proper use of force and conversational Spanish.
Bermudez-Arenas, 33, entered a 7-Eleven convenience store in McMinnville on Nov. 15, 2014. For reasons unknown, he fatally stabbed Woodinville native Parker Moore and then fled on foot. He returned minutes later and was gunned down by officers as he approached them clutching a knife in an agitated manner.
“The case was dismissed with prejudice, which means it can’t be refiled,” McMinnville captain Tim Symons said. “So that was a great win for our entire department. And specifically for those officers who were involved, as it is something that has been weighing on their minds every day.”
The fact that Bermudez-Arenas was an illegal immigrant, plus the fact officers used lethal force, made this situation a potential powder keg in the public discourse.
“It rocked our community, the police community and the greater community of Yamhill County,” Symons said. “But the police saw nothing but an outpouring of support for the officers. Which at that time, three years ago, was not a good time in the nation’s history in regards to officers having to use deadly force. A lot of the rhetoric around that time was centered around Ferguson [Mo.]. Nationally there wasn’t a lot of support for law enforcement. However, in the greater area of McMinnville, there was a lot of support for our officers. That was nice to see.”
Cristy Bermudez, the aunt of Juventino Bermudez-Arenas, felt this ruling to be a travesty of justice.
“The family wants to say that we believe it’s not fair,” Bermudez said. “[Juventino] went back there [to the 7-11] to turn himself in. The police should be held responsible. He’s just one guy, and the police could have used other tactics like a stun gun. Come on now, it’s not target practice... The cops can get away with doing anything. Then they can wipe their hands clean like it’s nothing. What Juventino did was not right. But he chose to go back and turn himself in. It’s heartbreaking for the young man [Parker Moore] and for Juventino.”
STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF PARKER MOORE
“We find it hard to believe that any party brought a lawsuit related to this situation. With eyewitnesses and video evidence, the man randomly chose to stab Parker with a knife with no provocation. Parker died within 90 minutes of the stabbing. The same eyewitnesses and video show this man only moments later with the same weapon advancing on the police officers at the scene. How can his intent to harm/kill be in question? How can the police officers’ duty to protect the community and themselves be questioned in this situation? For the past two years, we were aware that a lawsuit was in process for the wrongful death of the murderer of Parker. It seemed so absurd that we put it in the back of our mind hoping it would fade away. When we heard more details recently that the case was being pursued, it became more real, painful and hurtful. We don’t know the people or lawyers bringing this suit so we can only assume the motivation. That said, we are relieved that the case has ended due to the lack of merit. We have the highest respect for the officers on the scene, the leadership of the McMinnville Police Department and the fire and rescue responders that took care of Parker. These people do a job that we give great honor. They have openly and compassionately shared the impact of Parker’s death on them personally and they continue to support us.”