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'I Called Out for Help': Man Shot by Pittsburg Police Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

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Ashton Porter (center), joined by his wife Gianna and attorney Adanté Pointer, addresses reporters at a press event in Oakland on Tuesday. Porter has filed a lawsuit against a Pittsburg police officer over a 2022 incident in which he was shot while amid a mental health crisis. (Nik Altenberg/KQED)

A man who was shot by Pittsburg police officers two years ago while in mental distress filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the city and police department, alleging excessive force and civil rights violations, among other complaints.

Among the defendants named in Ashton Porter’s lawsuit is Officer Ernesto Mejia-Orozco, who was one of 10 Antioch and Pittsburg officers to be federally indicted last year following an 18-month investigation into the East Bay police departments.

Porter was alone in a Pittsburg hotel room, shouting for help and breaking things in February 2022 when his family called 911 to help him.

Police and mental health teams responded, but Pittsburg police Lt. William Hatcher, who was in charge of the operation, eventually told the mental health teams to leave and initiated a plan to make Porter comply by force, according to the lawsuit.

“This county had mental health awareness counselors there on the scene doing their job the correct way, building rapport, deescalating the situation, coaxing him peacefully to come out of the hotel room that he was holed up in,” Porter’s attorney Adante Pointer said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the lawsuit. “Why did the police turn this from being a mental health wellness call into what looks like a military operation?”


Porter had barricaded himself in the hotel room, and police eventually filled the room with pepper spray and tear gas to force him out, according to the lawsuit. After he exited into the hallway, officers shot him with rubber bullets first, then Mejia-Orozco shot Porter twice with live ammunition, the lawsuit states. The situation lasted more than 20 hours in total.

“At the time, my family called for help. I called out for help. I explained to them that I really didn’t understand what was going on at the time. And I just wanted time to get some sleep try to clear my mind in whatever way I could. And I just wanted good officers there that could help me get through it,” Porter said at Tuesday’s press event. “I did everything that I could to come out of that situation alive for my family.”

The lawsuit names Mejia-Orozco as well as Hatcher; Sgt. Cory Smith, who was also present at the hotel; and then-Police Chief Brian Addington. The Pittsburg Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Police body camera footage from the February 2022 incident in which Ashton Porter was shot while amid a mental health crisis is shared with reporters at Tuesday’s press event in Oakland. Porter has filed a lawsuit against a Pittsburg police officer over the incident, which took place at a Pittsburg hotel. (Nik Altenberg/KQED)

In last year’s federal case, Mejia-Orozco was arrested on suspicion of faking a college degree to receive a pay increase. Separately, in 2020, the city of Pittsburg settled a claim for $7.3 million with the family of a man who was killed when Mejia-Orozco put him in a neck restraint in 2016.

“A person who managed to kill someone with their bare hands was trusted to act in the right and correct way while holding a gun — in a situation that could have been resolved with further conversation,” Pointer said.

After Porter was shot and detained, officers dragged him through the hotel naked, the lawsuit states. He was brought to a hospital for medical care and then charged with assaulting an officer, trespass and vandalism, and bail was set at $430,000. He spent 33 days in jail before being released on bail, which “caused a great financial strain” for his family, Pointer said.

Porter spent the last two years fighting those charges, all of which were dismissed earlier this month.

“We intend to fight and hold not only the officer accountable, the supervisors that put that officer in position and condone that conduct, and the police department that seems to harbor and encourage and promote this type of conduct amongst its officers,” Pointer said.

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