Skip to comments.Slain girl's mom files $30M lawsuit against DEA
Posted on 03/13/2003 8:08:49 AM PST by wildbill
Slain girl's mom files $30 million lawsuit
Claiming federal agents had no reason to use deadly force against her daughter, the mother of a slain 14-year-old girl filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the two agents who she claims fired at Ashley Villarreal. The complaint seeks $30 million and potentially offers the most public review of the Feb. 9 encounter between the teenager and agents who were waiting to arrest her father, cocaine-trafficking suspect Joey Villarreal.
The case was filed in federal court a day after authorities asserted that Joey Villarreal knew about the stakeout and that his daughter was acting as a decoy when she drove along the street with her headlights off.
When investigators tried to stop her sedan, officials said, she rammed their unmarked vehicles and accelerated toward agents, who opened fire without being able to see who was at the wheel.
A lawyer for the girl's mother, Deborah De Luna Villarreal, dismissed this account as "the government laying out an alternate reality."
"I think there is a grave danger that reality is going to be distorted dramatically," said the attorney, Marynell Maloney. "How is a 14-year-old girl responsible to such a degree that she should be killed?"
The lawsuit is directed at two agents who, it asserts, are believed to have fired at the car: Bill Swierc and Jeff Kinnaman. The agents could not be reached for comment.
Authorities have not said who fired the fatal shot.
Maloney said a similar complaint against the agents' employer, the Drug Enforcement Administration, is in the works. Lawyers for Joey Villarreal have indicated they are preparing their own civil suit.
Should the case go to trial, it would offer possibly the most public review of the shooting at the intersection of South San Joaquin and Motes streets.
While the DEA and the San Antonio Police Department are separately examining the incident, it is unclear whether their findings will be released in detail.
A DEA spokesman, noting that the reviews still are under way, said it would be inappropriate for the agency to comment on the lawsuit.
The narrative described in the lawsuit says Ashley believed the agents were gang members. It also faults investigators for not seeing the girl climb into the car, emphasizing that minutes earlier she and a friend had put garbage cans on the stoop.
"This is a girl who's carrying out the trash, standing out there in the streetlight, and they're shooting her dead moments later," Maloney said. "It doesn't add up."
Described by Maloney as traumatized and grieving, Ashley's mother wasn't at a news conference held at the lawyer's office Wednesday.
Maloney said that, while the lawsuit seeks $10 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages, what Ashley's mom wants most is to prove that her daughter was a victim.
"The numbers are really difficult to determine. What is the worth of human life?" Maloney said. "The main point is this thing shouldn't have happened."
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When a driver tries to run down a cop (or agents), they are allowed to defend themselves using deadly force, or else they or other bystanders could be killed. It's a pity, but it's not the agents' fault.
Absolutely ... but ... how is it that the fatal shot came from the rear
However, shooting into a dark car at night without verification is highly recommended if the driver is trying to run you down.
"Family says she was learning to drive and wanted to drive the car around block and put it in garage."
How does this jibe with, "The narrative described in the lawsuit says Ashley believed the agents were gang members."
What, she wanted to show the gang members how well she could drive? If I'm dealing drugs and gang members are outside, the last thing I'm going to do is practice "Rules of the Road".
These agents were in plain clothes gang-banger wear. She probably thought she was getting car-jacked. You would drive desperately too if somebody in their finest urbanwear pointed a gun at your car.
The War on Some People Who Use Some Drugs (Only Because They Don't Generate Profits for Wall Street) claims yet another innocent victim.
The only uncontested facts here are that two undercover cops killed a 14 year old girl in an escalation of violence initiated by the cops. And they are sticking to their (stupid) story. The WOD is not worth this, or other police actions like Waco. If it takes big lawsuits like this to stop the WOD, then let's get down to it.
She was "learning how to drive" at 14. Another big factor for me.
Does Texas even allow driver permits for 14 year olds? Pretty sure you need to be 15 to start learning. Then her Uncle allows her to start driving at night with her lights off? Doubtful.
Sounds to me that she was told to "go get their attention", but instead of leading them on a chase, she ended up hitting one of their cars and driving right at some of the officers. How many officers were there? The suit is only brought against 2, but there were likely more if it were an operation to arrest her Father.
"But she was only 14!"
Nobody in harms way knew that, all they knew was a driver in a car was endangering law enforcement agents. Would you hesitate to pull the trigger on someone breaking into your house with a gun drawn? Would you try to find out how old they were before you took action? Of course not. Just because she was 14 doesn't mean that the car was made of soft foam. She could have killed them as easily as a 37 year old man with that car.
I know that there are many here who hate any law enforcement and think all cops and agents deserve to die. Those people are anarchists of a worse kind than any of the loony protestors.
Think a repeat of the violence brought by the first attempt at prohibition, only with much greater potential for abuse given the greater amounts being spent on this newest failed attempt to stem the consumption of a substance.
Uhh, blockading the normal progress of a car on a street at night from front and rear is not an initiation of violence? What if someone did that to you?
She rammed other vehicles first, obviously not caring that there may have been people in them.
Again you seem predisposed to one side of the story. Why? Clue for you: what happens when a foot is taken off the accelerator pedal in a car with an automatic and stuck in "Drive" after the driver has been disabled?
If the truth is somewhere in between, I favor the DEA.
Well, one thing is damned well sure. The 14 year old girl you've condemned to death after the fact won't be getting any jury trial. Not that it seems to bother the cops involved. Or you.
I merely summarized the news reports. You did not contest it, or add to it, either.
The DEA depends on the gullibility of the average dolt of a citizen. Decoy? My @$$.
Oh, but that could have been dangerous!! Why should these brave men who only want to protect us from evil have to be put in a dangerous situation. I mean, they are cops for petes sake, not janitors./sarcasm
I think its time we end the practice of unmarked cars and plain-clothed law enforcement officers. If you are making an arrest, you wear a uniform with a badge displayed(and no, you cant wear a mask and have tape over your badge either). One person mistakenly killed by undercove cops is too much, and there have been far more than one person killed.
Also, I might add, that the escalation was not brought on by "cops" as another poster pointed out; the escalation was brought on by DRUGS.
No Drugs + No 14 year old behind the wheel + No Suspicious Car With Its Headlights Turned Off + No ramming = No Shooting.
If not for the four points above, the girl would be alive today. And who put the girl in the situation she was in? The agents or the parent(s)? The latter, obviously.
I do not stop for unmarked cars. I allow the sirens and beacons to follow me until I'm in a crowded area, such as a shopping center parking lot, supermarket parking lot, etc.
After I explained why I didn't pull over, I was immediately off the hook.
"How many people, in this city, over the past five years, have posed as cops, with a little portabubble blue/white/red light atop their car, and then rape/kill the person who stops for him, believing him to be a REAL police officer?"
"Okay, case dismissed".
And if someone tries to run me over with a car, they'll get shot at.
We can go round and round on this. It was a sad situation, but this will end up in a 'he said/she said' kind of thing. The outcome of this will not depend on facts presented, but on the make up of the jury.
The punishment for driving without a license, alone, shouldn't be death.
However, it's interesting that some believe that the girl was acting in self-defense. If I'm 14, behind the wheel of a car, with my lights off, knowing my father is into drugs, and two agents pop out from nowhere, I'm going to think "cops" before I think "gang". As such, I would surrender, vs. making the decision to use my car as a deadly weapon (which pretty much ensures I will be killed myself). Just my opinion...
The opinion in this post does not contradict my admitting to not stopping for unmarked cars in another post. For example, I dont do drugs, and have no reason to expect/believe that anyone is after me, for anything terribly specific (other than speeding, perhaps).
Correction - there were some things that occurred before they tried to 'box her in'.
"Federal officials say the car pulled away from the house at high speed with the headlights off. When agents tried to box the car in, they say, the girl kept coming toward them and crashed into their vehicle, then threw the car into reverse and rammed the DEA vehicle behind her."
(1) Assume every gun is loaded.
(2) Don't point the gun at someone unless you intend to pull the trigger.
These are standard safety gun rules.
Now, if I ever find myself in a situation where non-uniformed people are pointing guns at me while I am in a car, I must assume that they are going to fire at me (see rules 1 and 2 above.) Therefore, I must use the car as a weapon and in self defense I will do my best to run them over.
Which is why, as other posters have noted, arresting officers should always be in uniform, and badged. Otherwise it is reasonable to assume that men with unmarked cars, wearing civilian clothes are:
Logically, under the circumstances, one should always attempt to run down non-uniformed personnel who are pointing guns at you. And I am not joking. People are kidnapped and then robbed, raped, and murdered every day in this country. One must defend oneself as best as one can.
Now -- in this particular case -- no one really knows all the details. But it was clearly foolish for the police to not have had some uniformed officers on hand if they were expecting to make an arrest. Nor would it have been a big deal to get out of the way and then just follow the 14 year old driver. They could have had plainly marked cars arrive, turn on lights and siren, and things would have turned out differently.
It was drug-pusher daddy's car. They didn't know it was a 14 year old girl in the driver's seat.
1) Your agreement with #17
2) Your assertion in #31 that "drugs" brought this "escalation"
3) Your statement in #31 that the "parents put her in harm's way, an implication that you believe the asinine "decoy" story.
4) Your sarcastic tone in your #34 to me.
No it wasn't, it was the passenger's car.
Correction: "Federal officials say..."
Add to that, it is amazing what people will say when they need to cover their backsides. And when there is seemingly no end to people willing to take what they say as incontrovertible fact simply because the people giving their account wear a uniform.
Cops should not be held above the law. If anything, they should be held to a higher standard.
Not a lower standard.
The wanna be drug pusher acting as a decoy for her drug pushing father got what she deserved/sarcasm
Side note: What exactly was she supposed to be a decoy for? How did her father even know undercover DEA agents were outside? Did he try to "flee" during the ordeal?
The DEA need better lies. They are getting more pathetic by the day.
My gun training was military, not police. The rules are the same (except for combat when you are under fire from a positively identified enemy.)
Do not discharge your firearm unless you can see the person you are shooting at, and recognize them as someone to be fired upon. Period.
You forget. The drug warriors believe that it's perfectly fine for innocents to get shot and killed, millions of dollars in property to be stolen from innocent persons, hundreds of doors of innocents to get kicked in at 3 am, hundreds of innocent folks to get slammed to the floor nude by Rambo wannabes - all these things are just fine as long as the holy WOsD continues.
They don't care.
It's unfortunate these things don't happen to them. Their opinion might change.
Oh, yeah, I guess it does, like the politician's kids who get off with a slap on the wrist, while other kids get long jail terms.
Justice, yeah, that's the ticket !