RIVERSIDE – Jury deliberations are slated to resume today in the trial of a former Beaumont policeman who blinded a woman when he shot her in the face with a pepper spray pistol.
Enoch “Jeremy” Clark, 38, could face more than 20 years behind bars if convicted of assault by a peace officer causing injury, assault with a less lethal weapon, battery causing serious injury and assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Clark is accused of shooting a pepper spray pistol at point-blank range, directly into the eyes of 32-year-old Monique Hernandez on the night of Feb. 21, 2012.
Jury deliberations began Wednesday morning.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Carney told jurors in his closing statement that instead of behaving like a professional law enforcement officer, Clark got “annoyed” with Hernandez as she bucked his attempts to handcuff her.
“And look at what happened,” Carney said. “Monique Hernandez will never see again.”
The prosecutor condemned the Clark for firing a JPX pepper spray gun, which discharges propellant at 400 mph, 10 inches from Hernandez’s face while arresting her for misdemeanor DUI, characterizing all of the defendant’s statements to investigators regarding what happened as “bull—-.”
“There was no imminent threat to his life. He wasn’t slipping off balance when he pulled that trigger,” the prosecutor said. “Any option was better than what he did. He goes from a little bit of effort to inflicting a brutal injury.”
“She has her hands behind her back. Yes, she’s mouthy and drunk, but there is no way to justify his response,” Carney said.
Defense attorney Steve Sanchez faulted his client’s superiors, inadequate training on the weapon, unclear instructions on how to use it and other factors for what transpired.
Sanchez said the JPX manufacturer’s warnings on the minimum safe distance to fire the pepper pistol were confusing. He pointed to errors in the instruction manual, including a misplaced comma that suggested the weapon could be fired from one meter — three feet — away, instead of the 1.5 meters actually required.
The attorney said that because the Beaumont Police Department was “too cheap” to purchase practice cartridges, officers were deployed with the JPX devices without ever having had an opportunity to fire them.
Sanchez said his client’s decision to fire the pepper spray gun was “made in a split second, and you can’t second-guess the officer.”
A dash-cam videotape taken from Clark’s patrol car on the night of the confrontation showed a drunken Hernandez with her hands behind her back, jostling as Clark attempts to handcuff her.
The lawman repeatedly tells the woman to “stop resisting” and “get your hands behind your back,” while Hernandez answers, “I’m not resisting” and demands to know why she’s being taken into custody.
The grainy black-and-white video clip runs two to three minutes, at the end of which Clark reaches toward his duty belt and unholsters a device, firing it into Hernandez’s face.
Clark is free on $50,000 bail.
Closing statements set in trial of ex-cop who blinded woman
RIVERSIDE – Closing arguments are scheduled tomorrow in the trial of a former Beaumont cop who fired a pepper spray pistol into a woman’s eyes, permanently blinding her, in what the prosecution argues was a criminal act of violence and the defense contends was a mistake due to insufficient training.
Enoch ”Jeremy” Clark, 38, could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted of assault resulting in great bodily injury, as well as assault by a peace officer, unnecessary force causing injury and related felonies connected to the Feb. 21, 2012, arrest of 32-year-old Monique Hernandez.
The defense called its final witness Friday, after which the prosecution commenced with rebuttal testimony, which will continue into Tuesday morning. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher has indicated closing statements will get underway early Tuesday afternoon.
Clark’s attorneys have relied on experts in law enforcement tactics to counter the prosecution’s contention that the ex-cop engaged in a deliberate act of violence to subdue Hernandez.
A defense witness last week testified that the user manual for the JPX pepper spray gun in Clark’s possession was riddled with ambiguous information, including the minimum safe distance to fire the non-lethal weapon.
The manual states 1.5 meters — about 5 feet — but the defense questioned how a law enforcement officer with only a couple hours training with the device would know whether that’s five feet from a subject with his arm extended or holding the device close to his vest.
Clark fired the pistol, which resembles a Star Trek Phaser and ejects propellant at 400 mph, about 10 inches from Hernandez’s face, according to the prosecution. A dash-cam videotape taken from Clark’s patrol car on the night of the confrontation showed a drunken Hernandez with her hands behind her back, struggling against Clark as he attempts to handcuff her. The lawman repeatedly tells the woman to ”stop resisting” and ”get your hands behind your back,” while Hernandez answers, ”I’m not resisting” and demands to know why she’s being taken into custody. A fellow patrolman is nearby, facing a half-dozen members of Hernandez’s family, who are shouting at the officers not to ”rough her up.”
The poorly illuminated, black-and-white video clip runs two to three minutes, at the end of which Clark reaches toward his duty belt and unholsters the pepper spray pistol, firing it inches away from Hernandez’s face.
”Officer Clark was not having to fight her off,” said Deputy District Attorney Mike Carney. ”He was losing patience with her. He was getting annoyed with this woman because she would not submit to his will.”
Carney scoffed at the statements Clark later made to sheriff’s detectives, who handled the investigation. ”He tells them she was trying to get away from him, that he was afraid for his life, afraid that she might gouge his eyes out,” Carney said.
Carney alleged the officer’s decision to fire the JPX pepper spray gun into Hernandez’s eyes went against everything he’d been trained to do. Defense attorney Steve Sanchez said that his client’s use of force was ”proper and correct.”
Sanchez played the tape from Clark’s patrol unit, but also from the pocket tape recorders that both Clark and his partner had on them while taking Hernandez into custody. The audio mix presented a picture of ”confusion, chaos and tension” that the two officers experienced while attempting to make a ”simple DUI arrest,” the attorney said. Sanchez dismissed Clark’s training on the JPX pistol as ”terrible, deplorable,” noting that the weapon is manufactured in Switzerland, and the instruction manual and video are fraught with misspellings and obscure directions.
”Officer Clark gave 17 commands for the suspect to stop resisting,” Sanchez said. ”At what point does he have to put his safety at risk?”
According to the prosecution, Clark went to arrest Hernandez after she had gotten into a scuffle with her sister’s boyfriend at another location and drove back to her family’s residence. The pepper spray propellant split a cornea in one of her eyes and severely damaged the optical nerve, leaving her blind, according to Los Angeles attorney Milton Grimes, who is representing Hernandez in a federal lawsuit against Clark and Beaumont.
The defendant is free on $50,000 bail.