tragedy

Joey Pinasco was killed on August 24, 2008 by a barrage of bullets from the guns of two California Highway patrol officers. With over 20 shots fired and 6 in the head. The officers have said that they shot Joey because he was trying to run them over with his pickup truck. Witnesses have contradicted the officers’ version of what occurred, and stated that the pickup truck was not moving at the time shots were fired. In addition, the damage to the pickup truck demonstrates that the barrage of gunfire came from the side of the truck, contrary to the officers excuse that they shot Joey because he was trying to run them over. To date, the Highway Patrol has refused to release photographs, diagrams, witness statements, and other results of its so-called investigation. Joey’s family has had no access to the physical evidence other than a visual inspection of Joey’s pickup truck. Photos of the pickup taken by a representative of the family are included in this website. Note the location on the windshield and the side of the truck where the bullets struck. None of the bullets struck the rear window of the cab, a physical impossibility if the officers really had been firing at a truck that was trying to run them down.

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Sequence of Events:

April 2009- After 8 long months of no explanation or answers as to the events leading up to the brutal shooting and killing of Joey, the Pinasco Family received a letter from the San Joaquin County District Attorney informing them of their decision not to criminally prosecute the two CHP officers.

May 2009- Joey’s family met with the San Joaquin County District Attorney, Jim Willett and his Head Investigator, Larry Ferrari to discuss and get an explanation about the conclusion to their investigation. However, none of our questions were answered and we were given no explanation of the events that occurred or why they have chosen to not prosecute the officers. The D.A. explained to us that they could not give us any details regarding the investigation at that time because the case was being reviewed by the California Department of Justice. At this meeting we had many questions regarding their decision. We asked both Mr. Willett and Mr. Ferrari, if they had physically been out to see Joey’s truck, they both replied that they had not, but had seen pictures. This left us with the conclusion that there was not a thorough investigation done by their department. Mr. Willett continued to try to convince us that after we saw their report we would understand why they came to the conclusion they did, but they refused to discuss our case in any detail. At one point in the meeting Mr. Willett told Mrs. Pinasco that “This should never have happened to your son, the officers made a mistake”. We also asked why this case is not being heard by the Criminal Grand Jury, we were told this case would have to be recommended by a judge to be heard by the Grand Jury and that would not happen in this case. If there is nothing for the D.A. to hide, then why not have the case heard to satisfy the family? The D.A. had no answer for us. We were told that we would be meeting again when the California Department of Justice finished their investigation, at this point they would be able to explain their findings and reasons to their decision.

March 2010- It has been 1 year and 8 months since Joey Pinasco was killed, the California Department of Justice has also refused to criminally try the two CHP officers. Yet, 10 months later we still haven’t heard from the San Joaquin County District Attorney or their office to explain their decision as to why they chose not to criminally prosecute the two CHP officiers, Stephen Coffman and Michael Walling. There are questionable events, contradicting statements from the officers and witness accounts that are being ignored, yet none of this seems to matter. Isn’t it the job of the District Attorney to find out the truth in these matters? Don’t we deserve a thorough investigation and explanation as to the events leading up to and including the fatal shooting that occurred the night of August 24, 2008?

To date, we are waiting to go to Civil trial in January 2012. This is our only option at this point. We hope to achieve justice civilly as our first step towards our ultimate goal of prosecuting the officers in Criminal Court.

We also want everyone to be aware, that these two CHP officers Stephen Coffman and Michael Walling, who at the time of Joey’s shooting, refused to take drug tests, are back to work on the streets.

January 2012- We finally got our day in civil court. We attended a 10 day trial in Federal Court in Sacramento, CA where an 8 person jury decided on a verdict in our favor against the California Highway Patrol and the State of CA. The verdict stated that the two officers, Michael Walling and Stephen Coffman were guilty of both wrongful death and battery (excessive force).

May 2012- U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued a four-page order and judgment, stating that the jury intended to assess $1,006,000 in damages against each of the officers, Michael Walling and Stephen Coffman. And she ruled that the CHP and the state are jointly liable for the damages connected to the officers’ actions.

June 2012- The state of CA and the California Highway Patrol have filed an appeal.