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Family Blames Tragedy on Drunken Cop

HOUSTON (CN) - A drunk off-duty policeman shot two sober brothers in a bar parking lot, one fatally, as they "were coming to the rescue of a young woman" a drunk patron had punched in the face, the widow claims in Harris County Court.

Omar Ventura's widow Rosa Rodriguez and her three minor children, and Ventura's brother Rolando Ventura sued Officer Jose Coronado, the City of Houston and USA Investment Group dba Sherlock's Baker Street Pub and Grill.

The family claims that "Officer Coronado was not in fear of his or another's safety - he was drunk. He shot Omar and Rolando without provocation under color of law."

In the Feb. 19, 2011 shooting, the complaint states, "Officer Coronado gunned down 28-year-old Omar Ventura at Sherlocks in the River Oaks area. Omar was unarmed and sober. Officer Coronado shot Omar in the stomach causing Omar to 'bleed out' and eventually die after two surgeries at the hospital. While Omar was bleeding to death in the ambulance and undergoing surgeries in an attempt to save his life, other City of Houston Police Officers ... yanked his wife Rosa - who was not involved - from the back of the ambulance, keeping her from joining her husband for his final few precious minutes of life. The last words she heard from her husband as he lay in the parking lot bleeding and waiting for the ambulance to arrive were 'It hurts. Everything is going dark.'

"Officer Coronado also shot Omar's brother, Roland Ventura. Rolando was unarmed and sober. But for Rolando's quick thinking when he raised his arm to protect his face from the bullets, he would likely be dead. Instead, the arm that protected his life was destroyed when Officer Coronado, attempting to shoot Rolando in the head, shot him in the arm. Not satisfied, Officer Coronado fired again, trying to shoot Rolando in the face, but he missed."

The family says the tragedy unfolded as they headed home from Sherlock's and a drunk patron followed their cousin's fiancee, nonparty Karla Cantu, out of the bar.

"Obviously intoxicated, yelling profanities, and assaulting anyone crossing his path who was trying to prevent him from reaching Ms. Cantu, the drunk bar patron almost caught Ms. Cantu before she reached her truck," the complaint states. "He continued to yell at Ms. Cantu and began beating on her truck with such force that she feared he would seriously damage the vehicle.

"Ms. Cantu, tiring of the drunk bar patron's antics, exited her truck to confront him. He hit her in the face, knocking her down in the parking lot.

"Seeing the events unfold, an unidentified citizen approached the drunk man abusing Ms. Cantu to attempt to reason and plead with him to stop. The drunk hit the concerned citizen in the face, knocking him out cold."

That's when the Ventura brothers stepped in.

"In a heroic move, rarely seen in these cynical times, the Ventura brothers intervened between the drunk and Ms. Cantu in an attempt to talk to the drunk man and calm him down," the complaint states.

"The drunk would have none of it. He forcefully pushed Omar and Rolando aside to continue his attack. Omar kept pleading with the man to stop while Rolando tried to attend to the man lying unconscious on the pavement.


"In the meantime, Officer Coronado was leaving the bar after a night of partying with his friends. He was with a female - possibly a new acquaintance, his date or girlfriend - when he witnessed the men struggling and fighting for Ms. Cantu's safety.

"Officer Coronado without taking time to assess the scene, ask questions, or determine who needed help and who needed restraint, immediately and inexplicably went to the aid of the attacker.

"The Ventura brothers did not see Officer Coronado approach. Officer Coronado, without warning, ambushed Rolando from behind, hitting him hard in the chin and nose causing him to bleed profusely. Rolando quickly turned to see Officer Coronado circling him, Omar, and the others. Rolando, undeterred by the blows and the blood, continued to try to assist Ms. Cantu and the unconscious man while Officer Coronado continued to circle."

The family says that "Coronado asked no questions, took no time to assess the scene or question any of the mean or women involved. ... Instead, Officer Coronado chose to draw and use his service weapon.

"The woman accompanying Officer Coronado from the bar begged him to put away his gun and go home. He, having had numerous drinks, was either oblivious to her pleas or ignored her purposefully. Omar and Rolando began to back away. Officer Coronado, presumably realizing he would miss an opportunity to shoot someone, fired at Omar hitting him in the stomach at almost point blank range. Rolando, seeing his brother shot and fall to the ground, experienced shock and remained standing in place. Officer Coronado then tried to shoot Rolando in the face twice.

"Rolando, seeing the gun pointed at his head, raised his arm to protect himself. The first shot hit Rolando in the arm, permanently scarring and injuring him. The second shot narrowly missed his head. He fired the shots at Rolando from about 10 feet. Officer Coronado, being a trained officer, had obviously had too much to drink or he would have hit his mark and killed Rolando," the complaint states.

The complaint continues: "Officer Coronado produced his badge, declared his status as a police officer, and told everyone to 'hit the ground and not move.'

"As a crowd gathered to observe what had happened, Officer Coronado - possibly realizing the grave errors in judgment he made - stumbled away, obviously intoxicated. Shortly thereafter, Rosa, who was a witness to the altercations, sees Omar, her husband, bleeding and holding his stomach. Rosa ran to Omar as he collapsed to the ground and pleaded for her to call an ambulance because it hurt so bad that he believed he may be dying. Rosa tried to comfort Omar as Rolando helplessly looked on, but Omar could not maintain consciousness, collapsing in Rosa's arms."

Rodriguez says that when she got into the back of the ambulance to go with her husband to the hospital, Houston police officers "forcibly removed her."

"Officer Coronado's fellow officers placed her in the back of a police car under the guise of needing her statement, but in essence, merely kept her from attending to and comforting her husband as he passed away," the complaint states.

Rodriguez says the officers ignored her as she banged on the squad car windows and begged them to take her to the hospital to be with her husband.

"Apparently and unfortunately for the Ventura family, Rosa's intuition proved correct. Omar died at the hospital before she could arrive. The police officers detained her until approximately 7:00 a.m. the next morning while Omar died alone," according to the complaint

The family says Coronado was following "conflicting city policies" when he shot the brothers, "one policy requiring him to carry a firearm and intervene in all conflicts, and another policy prohibiting him from carrying his firearm and intervening after drinking."

They seek punitive damages for wrongful death, civil rights violations, dram shop violations, premises liability, Rolando's gunshot wounds, and for "severe mental anguish, trauma, shock, and distress, both physical and emotional, past and future" from seeing Omar shot to death.

The family is represented by Ryan Bormaster.

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