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The Killing of Jeremiah Moore: Parents Want Answers in 2012 Vallejo Police Shooting

| April 9, 2014
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Photo of Jeremiah Moore. (Courtesy of Lisa Moore, his mother)

Jeremiah Moore. (Courtesy of Lisa Moore, his mother)

A year and a half after a Vallejo police officer shot and killed 29-year-old Jeremiah Moore, the dead man’s parents are struggling to understand how and why it happened. Police say Moore was shot after he threatened officers with a rifle — an account contradicted by a witness whom investigators have yet to interview.

The Vallejo Police Department and Solano County District Attorney’s office still haven’t disclosed basic details of their investigation, including Moore’s autopsy and results of a toxicology report that could show whether he had drugs in his system when police shot him.

Eugene and Lisa Moore say, most of all, they want to understand why police found it necessary to shoot someone they say was kind, curious and trying to overcome the social isolation that went along with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder.

“They owe us the truth. They really do,” Lisa Moore says. “I want to know the truth. Why did you shoot my son? Be honest with us. Tell us what happened. Because I don’t buy the story that he put a gun on you. I do not buy it.”

The events that led to Moore’s killing began unfolding about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, when people on a quiet Vallejo street were awakened by loud banging and shouts. The noise was coming from 2504 Alameda Drive, the house next door to the home of Marvin Clouse. He grabbed a video camera and went outside to investigate.

Clouse says he saw his neighbors, Jason Jessie and Jeremiah Moore, smashing the windows of their own cars, parked in front of their house. The men were naked, and Jessie was calling out commands to Moore. Lisa Moore says her son’s disorder gave him a tendency to follow commands.

“I hope this is right, I’m destroying everything. Destroy it, Jeremiah. I want you to destroy it,” Jessie can be heard saying on Clouse’s video. “Windshields are the soul. Windshield is god, break it. Break through.”

Clouse’s video is too dark to see more than occasional flashes of light. In the audio, however, you can hear Jason Jessie giving orders to Jeremiah Moore, and Moore responding.

The disturbance continued well after midnight, and Clouse eventually taped Moore telling Jessie, “You start the fire.” At this point, Clouse says, he ran inside to call the Fire Department. Police officers, responding to multiple calls from the public, arrived as smoke began pouring from the upstairs bedroom window of the house.

A Vallejo Police Department press release said officers arrived at the scene at 1:33 a.m. and confronted a naked man, who turned out to be Jason Jessie, inside the residence. Then, the release said, a second naked man — Moore — “appeared from the back of the interior of the house with a rifle. The man with the rifle placed the barrel of the rifle directly against an officer’s stomach. Another officer saw this and fearing for his life and the life of his fellow officer, immediately discharged his firearm at the man with the rifle. The man with the rifle fell to the floor and was taken into custody.”

Clouse by this time was back outside with his camera rolling. His recording captured the sound of gunshots, a 10-second pause, then an officer repeatedly ordering someone to “show me your hands.” Then two more shots ring out.

The content of this audio is graphic. These events happened at some point later than the first audio excerpt, after Clouse turned off the video camera and then turned it back on. We have made no internal edits in this excerpt.

Moore was pronounced dead at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo, just blocks from his home, at 2:04 a.m.

Jessie was arrested, and charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer. Those charges were later dropped. No arson charges were filed, despite fire investigators’ conclusion that the blaze was intentionally set with gasoline.

Another Witness

Clouse wasn’t the only neighbor watching the scene at 2504 Alameda Drive.

Jaime Alvarado lived across the street and says he was playing a computer game when he heard the commotion coming from the Moore-Jessie residence. Alvarado says he went to an upstairs window, where he had a clear view of Moore’s and Jessie’s front yard and porch, and he saw police arrive.

Alvarado describes seeing a naked man standing in the doorway across the street when the man was shot by police positioned at the bottom of the porch.

‘I know, this guy who got shot, he doesn’t have a rifle in his hands.’
—Jaime Alvarado, neighbor

He says the man was waving his arms strangely — a flailing that he couldn’t seem to stop. He says he could clearly see the man’s hands, and there was nothing in them.

“What I heard was the officers told him to stop moving, and he can’t stop moving,” Alvarado says. “He starts shaking. That’s when the officer gets, like, scared. He got the gun and shoots him.”

“I know, this guy who got shot, he doesn’t have a rifle in his hands,” Alvarado says. “The officer who was firing the shots, he was before the stairs, and the man who got shot, he was on top of the steps.” He estimated the officer was 8 to 10 feet away from the man he shot.

Alvarado says police then dragged Moore away from the house, “like a piece of garbage. They don’t even check if he was alive or anything.”

Alvarado says the next morning he tried to tell an officer what he had seen, but was told to go back inside his house. Since then, he has repeated his account to three separate private investigators working for Moore’s family, but says he has not been interviewed by district attorney’s investigators or police detectives.

Both the Vallejo Police Department and the Solano County District Attorney’s office say it’s a matter of policy to canvass a neighborhood for witnesses.

Solano County District Attorney Donald du Bain said late last month he’d be happy to take Alvarado’s statement. The DA’s office confirmed to KQED that while Alvarado and one of the DA’s investigators have since spoken on the phone, no statement had been taken as of Tuesday afternoon, April 9.

Jason Jessie moved to Arizona in December 2012. He says now he doesn’t remember Moore having a gun when he was shot, but he doesn’t remember much about the shooting. He says his mind has “shut out” the traumatic incident.

“I had to watch it,” he says. “I was covered in blood.”

Jessie says he doesn’t remember and can’t explain the men’s behavior leading up to the shooting, but he insists he and Moore used only marijuana, and he thinks Moore’s toxicology report will prove that.

Lisa Moore’s face contorts with grief when she hears Alvarado’s description of her son’s waving hands.

“That was Jeremiah, when he was nervous,” says Moore, who lives in Santa Rosa with her husband. She thinks her son’s autism spectrum disorder played a direct role in the shooting. His family always knew Moore to strictly follow rules and orders, like those given by Jessie and also by police. She says his nervous twitching or flailing could easily have been mistaken for a quick hand movement just before he was shot.

Who Was Jeremiah Moore?

Family photos show a young man with short hair and an easy, almost goofy smile. Lisa Moore says as an infant, her son was a wonderfully well-behaved baby who would sit quietly in a playpen for hours. It was years before the parents realized their first child was  a little too calm, and Lisa Moore says he was eventually diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

As Jeremiah Moore grew, his different way of seeing the world isolated him from his peers. Lisa Moore said he began speaking late, and his difficulty communicating would frustrate him, but he was never violent. She choked up remembering a time her son asked her why he never got invited to parties.

But when Moore started attending community college, “all of a sudden he just blossomed,” says his father, Eugene Moore. He pursued his interest in working with his hands and was well on his way to becoming a journeyman plumber when he was shot. (His union made him a journeyman posthumously.)

Marvin Clouse shows the video he shot the night of Oct. 20, 2012, when his neighbor Jeremiah Moore was shot and killed by Vallejo police. (Alex Emslie/KQED)"

Marvin Clouse shows the video he shot the night of Oct. 20, 2012, when his neighbor, Jeremiah Moore, was shot and killed by Vallejo police. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

People who knew Jeremiah Moore remember his fascination with electronics and antique light bulbs. He made friends with people with similar interests in an online lighting community, his father says.

Clouse remembers Moore’s eyes sparkling when he saw an old fluorescent light bulb in his neighbor’s shed. “He said, ‘Ooooh, can I have that?’” Clouse says. He says Moore was always kind and had been helping him work on his truck in the days before he was shot.

“Jeremiah was a good worker,” Clouse says. “He’d get up at 2 in the morning to drive down to San Jose and work as a plumber, and he was always fixing his cars and they were fixing computers. I could come over with any questions, and he was a really kind, caring person. And I really miss him.”

Moore met Jason Jessie online and moved into Jessie’s rented house on Alameda Drive less than a year before the shooting. His parents say it was Moore’s first serious romantic relationship, and he kept it fairly private. Sometimes the couple would fight, and Moore would call his mother to talk it out, she says.

Jessie says the only gun in their house was an antique .22-caliber rifle from the 1920s.

Clouse says the police could have helped Moore. “My feeling about the police is that I believe they murdered my neighbor Jeremiah,” Clouse says, “and they came in like a SWAT team attacking someone who was not a threat, someone who actually needed to be helped.”

Investigating Officer-Involved Shootings

All police departments in Solano County have signed on to the district attorney’s “Officer Involved Fatal Incident Protocol,” which dictates a joint investigation by local police detectives and DA investigators. Of the 21 completed investigations since 2008, most were finished within a year. Only two have taken longer than Moore’s case.

More than half of those shootings were by Vallejo police, and six occurred in 2012, a year after the city emerged from bankruptcy following the recession. Perhaps the most notorious incident occurred seven weeks before Moore’s shooting. Witnesses say a police officer got up on the hood of a car and fired at Mario Romero and another man sitting inside the car, but the police and the DA investigation concluded the officer did not fire from the hood of the car. Romero died, and the DA and U.S. Attorney’s office cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in the case.

Vallejo criminal defense attorney Dan Russo is familiar with the Moore shooting, and he says he has serious doubts about the police department’s story.

“Even if this shooting was a legitimate use of deadly force, that’s something that should have been figured out a year ago,” he says. “This is why people distrust public agencies, and more important than that, Vallejo is in a really stressful situation. The last thing you want to do is lose community support, and when an investigation into a shooting takes a year and a half, without any kind of pronouncement, without any kind of information to the parties, it’s corrupting to everything. It creates a bad environment in the city. It makes the cops’ job harder.”

Russo says he’s used to homicide cases that are filed within days of an incident, and that much of the information Moore’s parents are still seeking in order to understand what happened that night is normally made public.

Russo also says he doesn’t see the Moore shooting as an isolated incident.

“Somebody is going to have to take responsibility for the fact that because of cutbacks to the police department, police are less supported,” he says. That means there are fewer officers to cover each other, he says, and creates a situation where there’s little accountability when it comes to shootings.

“This kind of all adds up to an environment where you’re not telling anybody what’s happening, and you have what I consider in my experience of being in this town for 37 years, a really unusual environment where you have a large number of police shootings.”

Vallejo Police Lt. Sid De Jesus says there are a lot of theories about the increase in officer-involved shootings in 2012. He says violent crime was up substantially, and the department was down to 84 sworn officers from 158 when the recession began in 2008. That puts Vallejo’s officer-to-population ratio at about half the national average.

“It creates a huge safety concern for officers,” he says. “But more importantly, it (the low police presence) creates a huge safety concern for citizens of this community.”

De Jesus says quality of life in Vallejo has suffered, and officers who elected to stay with the struggling department in the struggling city are concerned.

Solano District Attorney du Bain says his office’s review of the Moore shooting is close to completion. He says that sometimes the long investigations could strain public trust, but that the cases are taken very seriously.

“I’ve insisted these reviews be conducted by a chief deputy district attorney, not a line attorney, and that they be approved by me,” he says. “Our reviews are thorough, and I’ve tried to ensure that we handle these cases very carefully.”

De Jesus adds, “I can certainly tell you that I would assume that all of the DA’s findings have all been completed, and now they’re just in the stage of putting their case together, along with ours, and ensuring that every aspect of the incident has been addressed. It’s not uncommon for cases such as this, especially a case such as this that is completely complex. A lot of people may say, ‘What makes it so complex?’ There’s a lot of moving parts to it. There’s a lot of extenuating issues that were involved in this. And for those that were involved with the case and read what was publicized in the paper. So it’s not uncommon for these cases to take a little bit longer to come to a conclusion.”

Civil Lawsuit

Eugene and Lisa Moore say they haven’t been able to find an attorney to take their case, so they’re representing themselves in a wrongful death lawsuit against Vallejo and its police department. They both think the strange circumstances leading up to the shooting are scaring attorneys from taking the case.

“We’re learning as we’re going, and it’s going to be frustrating because what if we screw up and I can’t do anything about my son’s death?” Eugene Moore says. “That’s my biggest fear. If they’re in the wrong and I screw up, I can’t do anything about it.”

The Vallejo city attorney recently filed a motion to dismiss the family’s claim on the grounds that their complaint is devoid of underlying facts about the shooting. The motion could be heard in early May.

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Category: Law and Justice, News

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  • Michelle

    I dunno, seems as if it was a very dangerous chaotic situation. I can’t fault po!ice entirely. Mental illness combined with substance abuse is often a deadly combination. It sounds as if Jessie Moore’s lover is responsible for Jessie’s death. He manipulated Jessie into criminal behavior that put him into the crosshairs of Vallejo’s PD.

    • oexrex

      being in the X hair is fine, its pulling the trigger that is the issue and problem. It seems a officer involved shooting occurs in the Bay Area on a regular basis. Something I do not recall in the 70 – 90′s

      • Michelle

        Well, we did not as many mentally Ill people running around behaving threateningly as we do now. The mentally ill are more tolerated generally until they flip out and scare the public and then the cops. Mentally ill people have been responsible for a lot of attacks and mass shootings lately. Doing naked gymnastics at BART and attacking people. Running around naked in Florida and eating people’s faces off. Shooting up schools. I don’t know the full situation here, I wasn’t there, but I have been terrified of drug addicted mentally ill, very threatening people I have met on the streets of Oakland and most of them weren’t running around naked whilst smashing windows and setting fires. There is a reason attorneys are reluctant to take this case.

        • oexrex

          I worked in dwntown Oakland, though not during Occupy, and I agree that there are “bad’ characters both mentally ill and “normal”, and I want those individuals anywhere I am not.

          But there was another officer involved fatal shooting in Vallejo this afternoon.

          I worked for awhile at SF Police CU and got to know many officers. hey have a stressfull job for sure and 99.9% of the time do an excellent job.

          But I have also witnessed SWAT operations w/ armored vehicle employed in un-needed situations. A retired officer I met at a BD party, who always carries a concealed weapon told me that officers are trained to shoot a minimum of 3 X’s. Two to the tprso and one to the head.

          I have had interactions w/officers that were very professional, calm, and even friendly when I required assistance but I have also experienced a few where the officer was short, ill tempered, and almost bully like.

          I dont know if they have seen too many movies, had a bad day. or were never screened for attitude. I do know they OIS are more common and something is wrong.

          I recommend seeing the documentary, “How to Make Money Selling Drugs”, it will make you aware of the changes in law enforcement over the last 4- years

          • Michelle

            I believe you about the officers. But.. The street criminals are better armed and more ruthless than ever before. These young men will shoot an old lady in the head and laugh about it. They have been raised basically at an animal level. I think some of the cops are like this too. The ones who beat Kelly Thomas to death, for instance. We pay cops to do a job most of society refuses to do. They are like soldiers and you have to have a certain kind of personality to do what they do. You want them to be super human, both brave and sensitive. Not many men possess both qualities.

            Also we have been lowering the standards for police officers for years now. In Oakland they are only expected to have a “reasonably clean” record. This rule/exemption is to encourage more hiring of minority officers, because as we know many African-American men in Oakland have had multiple brushes with law enforcement.

            I watched a documentary last weekend on a group of high school football players who beat a migrant worker to death on a small coal town in Virginia. The town police officers knew the killers and engaged in a cover up. You know how everybody is always saying we need to hire officers who live inare from the community? Well, favoritism and cover ups are what happen when officers are too close to the community they serve.

  • scotty

    I always thought there was something fishy going on in this situation.
    Hopefully we will find the truth!
    Luv u Guys!

  • John

    The police straight up killed him

  • oexrex

    Great report that is sorely needed. If you travel out of the area, it seems this is not unique to the Bay Area, for example in San Diego area Sheriffs Deputies shot and killed a woman in her car with numerous shots back in Sept 2012.

    Viewing “How to Make Money Selling Drugs”, my concerns of a growing police state attitude by law enforcement seems a clear and present situation. I have experienced police assistance in a professional calm manner a few times in my life but in the past few years I saw police action in my neighborhood that appeared to me a over reaction with SWAT teams including a military type armored vehicle.

    I witness police officers approaching intersections with a red light turn on their overhead lights in order to pass thru without pause then turn it off immediately after crossing regularly. It seems that an attitude of authority and exception has become too common

  • Carrie Phyliky Rimes

    Jeremiah Moore was murdered by the Vallejo police. Pure and simple. And now they are covering their asses. Yes, Jeremiah and Jason went crazy that night. Yes, they deserved to be arrested for their actions. But Jeremiah did not deserve to lose his life. The Vallejo police are lying. They are unfit for the public trust they hold. They belong in jail for murder and for conspiracy and for corruption.

  • American citizen

    If you don’t want to be shot by the police, don’t give them a reason to draw their weapon. I thank the police for risking their lives daily to protect ours. It is unfortunate that good people have bad things happen to them and we don’t always make the right decision, but that’s life, accept it and move on. If any wrong doing has been committed I genuinely hope for justice to prevail. My prayers go out to the grieving family, and my support remains with the police department.

  • JonMW72

    how does this crazy incident start at 11:30pm and the cops don’t arrive until 1:30 am when it has escalated for 3 hours..oh yeah, Vallejo is broke and barely has a police force.

    • Eloise

      Check that math… Only 2 hours difference, not 3.

      • JonMW72

        Bad math yes, worse policing…2 hour response time is insane

  • Patricia Blanchard

    Yes it’s sad that he died, but why is everyone so quick to blame the police? Officer’s put their lives on the line everyday. What were they suppose to do, wait for one of them to be killed? This is ALL about suing the Police to get money ( Greed ). We loose so many officer’s because of people under the influence of drugs. Why can’t they just accept that and believe that these officer’s did what was necessary at that time. How were they suppose to know he had disorder. There was more then one officer’s that saw the rifle. Except it and let him rest in peace.

    • Carrie Phyliky Rimes

      This is definitely NOT about greed. This is about an unjustified homicide by the police. It is about accountability. It is about facing consequences for abusing the public trust. Yes, the police put their lives on the line. They sign on for that risk. In return, they are given permission to use deadly force when it is called for. It was NOT called for here. A young man was gunned down by incompetent public servants who later covered up their misdeeds with lies. It was a conspiracy. It was a crime. It was a murder. Being a police officer does not entitle you to commit murder.

  • ClarkeJohnston

    Why has Alvarado not given a complete statement to the DA’s office, then? What’s the hold up there? This aspect is similar to the public furor over the Romero shooting. Witnesses using the press to tell their side of the story; but failing to do the one critical thing: Get it on paper, officially, on the record, signed and dated. Failure to do so compromises the very validity of their accounts. I don’t understand this huge mistake. If you’re certain and sure of your version of events, then get it into the record. Press stories such as this carry no weight in court; the are NOT evidence. The accounts might serve to sway public opinion about an event, but hold no sway in the courtroom. Sidebar: The toxicology tests might be revealing. Being naked and smashing up your own possessions late at night, starting fires, might indicate the use of those legal but highly dangerous substances like Spice, K2, Bath Salts or similarly potent, and sadly, uncharted and mind-warping substances.

  • Steve Sorich

    To those of you who post ignorant and thoughtless posts, I have only one thing to say, how would you feel if this was one of your family members? Bet you wouldn’t appreciate the crack, uninformed judgements or the insensitive comments?? Would you??

  • Lisa Moore

    I have the utmost respect for the police. I too am grateful for their protection, however, it seems that we have a real problem in this state! My son was a victim and to those of you who think otherwise, I know over 200 people that believe this as well! He may have made a poor choice that night, but he didn’t deserve to be shot! Police are human and they are guilty of making bad choices as well. To those who think we want money – read the article. We want the truth not money,and we are not getting the truth. Instead, our son has been villified by the police and the media and by ignorant people on blogs like this. To you who are asking about the witness, if you read the article, he tried to talk to the police and they weren’t interested. They told him to go back in his house! To those who say the police weren’t aware of my son’s autism – why aren’t they trained to deal with people that have special needs? Does that mean that every parent of a special needs child needs to worry about their child being shot because the police don’t have the tools necessary to distinguish between someone who means them harm and someone who is dealing with autism or some other mental difficulty? It seems the current climate is to shoot first and cover your butt later! While I was writing this response, another person was shot by the police in Vallejo! How many more people have to die before we ask for some federal oversight? How much sense does it make to let the police investigate their own shootings? Where is the incentive for them to try to get to the truth? Educate yourself. Next time it might be someone you love. I’m guessing your response would be a lot different if you were in our shoes.

    • Joe Russo

      Ms. I would recommend that you and your attorney request that a outside
      agency be brought in to investigate this incident, if you feel that
      there is a some wrong doing with-in your local jurisdiction. This would
      probably be in the best interest of both parties if they are truly
      seeking justice.

      • Lisa Moore

        We don’t currently have an attorney. We did ask the FBI to get involved but they are taking a wait and see attitude. What type of agency do you suggest?

  • Rebecca Moore

    I understand that everyone has conflicting opinions about this, especially if you are an outsider to this tragedy. If you read the article fully and take a step back, there is a bigger picture here. This is not about my family getting money or getting their name in the press. This is about justice being served to an incident that went beyond the extreme. This highlights a structural injustice in ONE police department. This does not mean that the common opinion is to group all police departments and police officers together as one unit. Again ,this is highlighting just one department and the loose ends that lead to unanswered questions. If it is stated that we are only doing this for the money and to slander police officers in general, then it can be said that the lack of compassion, understanding and willingness to support an unjust cause and fight for it has disintegrated within our communities.

  • Steve Sorich

    To my sister Lisa Moore and Rebecca, my niece and the sister of Jeremiah Moore, well put on both counts! Too many people have a tendency to jump on these forums and spout all kinds of viewpoints which in this country is our constitutional right. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But for God’s sake and for the family members (including myself, I am Jeremiah’s uncle), think about those suffering through this before you post some uninformed opinion. As my sister Lisa put so well, if this was your son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, you would ask for the same consideration as we are now. People being people will have opinions on this, but please have an educated one!; and mindful of the sensitivities here! My family here seeks truth in this matter because Jeremiah deserves nothing less! As my sister said, the issue here is with ONE specific police dept., you have to wonder what happened to “To Serve and Protect” in the case of this particular police force, because of lack of money, pressing obviouslypoorly or undertrained officers out in the public armed with not enough experience and a loaded weapon. One need only look at the statistics in the article. Could beat this subject to death, our family just wants the truth here!