Pittsburg police shoot man who wouldn't leave hotel room: video

A man filed a federal excessive force lawsuit on Tuesday after Pittsburg police pepper sprayed, tear-gassed and shot him twice in a hotel room that he was too scared to leave while suffering from a mental health crisis. 

Ashton Porter survived those injuries on Feb. 24, 2022, but "no reasonable person would claim that experiencing a mental health crisis is a crime befitting the punishment of being shot multiple times," wrote his attorneys, Adante Pointer, Patrick Buelna and Ty Clarke.

"Police should just have a little more compassion with someone who's going through a mental health crisis, because that's not how that person should be defined," Porter said at a news conference Tuesday with his attorneys, wife and children by his side.

Through tears, his daughter, Natalia Metts said, "I felt like it was our fault that we called the police and that we shouldn't have." 

"Why did the police turn this from being a mental-health wellness call into what looks a military operation?" Pointer asked, adding, "Police, if you will, see things as if they're hammers, saw Mr. Porter as a nail."

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court against the city of Pittsburg and individual officers, including former Officer Ernesto Mejia-Orozco, Lt. William Hatcher,  Sgt. Cory Smith and then-Chief Brian Addington.

In addition, the suit alleges that police sent a specialized crisis team home and took over the situation themselves. 

Pittsburg's city attorney and the current police chief did not immediately respond for comment. Ernesto Mejia-Orozco resigned from the force in 2022.

Addington, who is now interim police chief in Antioch, responded that he doesn't comment on pending litigation. 

As the lawsuit lays out the story, Porter flew to the Bay Area from the state of Georgia and began experiencing a mental health crisis while staying at the Hampton Inn on California Avenue.

What specific illness he suffers from was not detailed or why he had come to the East Bay. 

Hotel employees called 911 to say that Porter would not leave his room. 

Porter had told them that he was scared and needed time, the lawsuit states.

Over the phone, Porter can be heard yelling for help. 

Police arrived and asked Porter to leave the room.

He wouldn't, which began a "prolonged interaction" that involved the use of pepper spray, tear gas, battering rams and eventually bullets, the lawsuit states.


Pittsburg police use battering ram to open hotel door. February 2022. Bodycam via Lawyers for the People

Porter's wife, Gianna, took an overnight flight to the Bay Area to try to help calm down her husband. 

When she arrived, she was allowed to speak to her husband through the door of the hotel for a few minutes before she was told to go downstairs, the suit states. 

The Contra Costa County's mental health team as well as the mobile crisis team also arrived within a few hours.

During this time, Porter kept telling the officers he was scared and was concerned that people were "out to get him," the lawsuit states.

Hatcher "dismissed" the mental health team for unknown reasons, taking over all communications with Porter, according to the lawsuit and body camera video. 

"Hatcher began implementing… [the] plan to aggressively force Mr. Porter out of his room, rather than de-escalate the situation," the lawsuit alleges.

First, police hit the door with a battering ram, "fueling Mr. Porter's fears that he was under attack," according to the suit. 

Next, police deployed four rounds of pepper spray and then six rounds of tear gas into Porter's room.

Porter was having trouble breathing and was becoming "increasingly more convinced that the officers outside of his room would harm him if he left the room," the suit states. 

Hatcher then commanded two SWAT teams to prepare for breaking into the room and deploying something called "hot gas," the lawsuit states. 

Porter eventually was flushed out of his hotel room. 

At that moment, at least one SWAT team member deployed two rounds of rubber bullets, which struck Porter. 

Porter recoiled, flinging his arms in the air and twisting at the waist.


Pittsburg SWAT teams gear up to use tear gas to flush Ashton Porter out of his hotel room. February 2022. Body cam video

Less than two seconds later, Mejia-Orozco shot Porter with bullets.

Porter fell to the ground. 

Police dragged Porter into the elevator and down to the hotel lobby.

Mejia-Orozco later told Internal Affairs investigators that he shot Porter who was "sprinting" down the hall with a knife.

But the video from the officer's body camera "does not support this version of events," the lawsuit states. 

Mejia-Orozco was in charge of the lethal force aspect of the operation, the suit contends.

He is the same officer who choked Humberto Martinez to death in 2016, which resulted in Pittsburg settling that case for $7.3 million in 2020. 

He was also one of the Pittsburg police officers charged by federal prosecutors and arrested by the FBI on suspicion of wire fraud. 

In the federal case, authorities say he paid someone to take online courses for him so that he could boost his pay.

He's also been charged by the Contra Costa County DA's office with accepting bribes - including tequila - to drop traffic tickets.

Records show Mejia-Orozco is expected to change his plea in both the federal and state cases next month, which will to criminal convictions.

In the Porter case, he says he somehow survived, but has suffered significant injuries.

A day after he was shot at the hotel in 2022, Porter was charged with several felony counts of assaulting an officer. 

All charges against Porter were dropped on May 6.


Ashton Porter was shot at a Pittsburg hotel. February 2022