‘We Just Wanted Help’: California Cops Shoot Black Man After His Family Calls 911 for Help After He Secluded Himself In Hotel Room During Mental Health Crisis

A man who survived a police shooting at a hotel outside Oakland, California, more than two years ago has filed a federal civil rights suit claiming he was unable to respond to law enforcement at his door due to a mental health episode he was having when the officers raided and opened fire.

The shooting on Feb. 24, 2022, left Ashton Porter with gunshot wounds to his stomach and arm following an intense 20-hour standoff at a Pittsburg Hampton Inn, according to the attorney representing the father of six from Georgia.

The civil complaint demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.

'Just Wanted Help': California Cops Let Off Tear Gas, Pepper Spray and Bullets at Black Man Who Was Afraid to Leave Hotel Room During Mental Health Crisis, Lawsuit Says
Pittsburg, California police officers drag Ashton Porter through the hallway of a hotel after he was shot by one of them. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/Police Activities)

Filed on May 28, the lawsuit alleges misconduct by several heavily armed officers with the Pittsburg Police Department, who deployed tear gas and pepper spray into Porter’s hotel room to force him out but never attempted to make “peaceful” entry.

The lawsuit claims the officers unnecessarily escalated the situation even as no one’s life was ever in danger.

According to the lawsuit, Porter had been facing felony counts of assaulting an officer with a deadly weapon from the incident, but those charges were dismissed last month on May 6.  

Joined by five of their children, Porter and his wife, Gianna, announced the lawsuit at a May 28 news conference with their attorney, Adanté Pointer. 

One of their daughters said family members called police to the hotel for help, believing they could help calm their father down during an apparent psychological lapse.

Instead, the SWAT team showed up like a military strike force, complete with body armor and assault weapons — transforming a minor health issue into a life-or-death cause, the family said.

“We just wanted help, to know where he was … I felt like it was our fault that we called the police and we shouldn’t have,” Porter’s daughter said at the news conference, according to the Sacramento Bee. “What happened was unjust. Nothing was OK about it.” 

She emphasized, “I’m just grateful that he is here,” as these run-ins with law enforcement have led to a rising body count among Black men in America.

Porter, the victim, said he was initially hopeful that the officers would get him the help he needed during his momentary crisis, explaining that he was “going through a really rough time.”

But when Porter didn’t emerge from the room immediately, the SWAT troops began trying to force their way inside, battering the door and firing pepper spray and tear gas through the damaged entry, according to the lawsuit.

Inside, Porter said he was paralyzed with fear.

“This aggressive and unnecessary escalation stoked Mr. Porter’s fears that the officers were there to harm him and eroded any trust or rapport that had been established,” the legal complaint says.

Soon, Porter was overcome by the gasses in the room and ran into the hallway, where SWAT team members had taken up positions at opposite ends, according to the lawsuit.

Police alleged that Porter had a large knife in his hand when he began to approach the officers.

Porter’s lawyer acknowledged that Porter had the knife but said he was holding his hands above his head and made no threatening moves.

That’s when the first shot rang out, and Porter was hit by a non-lethal rubber bullet, but this failed to put him down.

Two officers fired “two sponge projectiles that struck” Porter but were ineffective.

Seconds later, Officer Ernesto Mejia-Orozco shot Porter twice with real bullets, dropping him to the floor and ending the confrontation, according to the suit.

“Officers then dragged Mr. Porter down the hallway, into the elevator, and down to the hotel lobby, despite the fact that he had just been shot twice,” the complaint says.

Mejia-Orozco, who no longer works for the department, was questioned as part of a preliminary investigation and claimed he shot Porter as he “began sprinting down the hallway directly at him with a knife drawn,” the complaints say.

But the officer’s body-camera footage contradicts this account, showing Porter’s “body twisting in reaction to being shot by the rubber bullets” before Mejia-Orozco fired twice.

The standoff began a day earlier when several 911 calls reported Porter acting “strangely” at the hotel.

Police officials have since released a video of the incident that includes several angles from police body-cam footage.

Pittsburg Police Chief Steve Albanese has not personally commented on the incident, but the department issued a statement saying officers “exhausted efforts to convince (Porter) to exit the room” and deployed chemical irritants only after multiple attempts to end the standoff peacefully.

Pittsburg Police Lt. William Hatcher, who led the operation, allegedly dismissed mental health professionals who had arrived at the scene alongside his unit, the lawsuit states.

From there, Hatcher activated a plan to “aggressively force Mr. Porter out of his room,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit names the city of Pittsburg, Mejia-Orozco, Hatcher, Sgt. Cory Smith and former police Chief Brian Addington as defendants.

Mejia-Orozco currently faces criminal charges in two unrelated cases in which he has pleaded not guilty, one involving a bribery scheme in Contra Costa and the other a federal fraud case, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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