Deputy Constable Stands By Decision to Shoot at Car
John Ochoa stands by his actions after he shot at a vehicle in the early morning hours of July 23rd when a car sped off as he and another off-duty peace officer attempted to question the people inside the vehicle.
“I did what I felt at that point was necessary,” Ochoa, 39, said.
Ochoa, a deputy with the Jefferson County Constable Precinct 8 office, and Chris Bates, an officer with the Port Arthur Independent School District Police Department, were involved in the shooting at the Mega Play Bowling Alley in Port Arthur. The investigation into the shooting has been completed, according to Constable Eddie Collins, whose agency handled the investigation.
The investigation report has been turned in to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. No word yet on when a review of the report will be done.
Attempts to reach the PAISD PD were unsuccessful and Bates is out of town.
According to Ochoa, an 11-year veteran of law enforcement, he and Bates were working off-duty at the bowling alley, located at 3500 Regional Drive in Port Arthur, just behind Central Mall. The bowling alley was closing down around 1:45 a.m., when a young white male rushed inside the building to tell Ochoa that his brother had been sprayed with pepper spray and beat up. He then pointed out a young black male standing by the 9th Street entrance and then pointed to a car in the parking lot.
Both Ochoa and Bates walked to the 9th Street entrance of the bowling alley and spotted Ryan Hancock, a Port Arthur man, and identified themselves as police and asked to speak with him. Ochoa said Hancock neglected to answer and left the porched-in area of the entrance.
Ochoa said he then went to the car that had been pointed out in the parking lot and said Bates followed Hancock. Once Ochoa arrived at the car, he quickly noticed a young woman in the car on the driver’s side, Jasmine Ruben, from Beaumont. Ochoa, who approached the car from the rear, said he had his gun drawn, but it was at his side.
Ruben’s window was up according to Ochoa, and he said he instructed Ruben to get out of the car a “several” times and identified himself as police each time. Ruben refused to get out of the car, Ochoa said. Mere seconds after he began shouting at Ruben to get out of the car, Hancock, Ruben’s boyfriend, jumped in the car – with Ochoa still standing near the front quarter panel on the driver’s side of Ruben’s white Hyundai .
Undeterred after jumping in the car, Ochoa said he heard Hancock tell Ruben to “go, go, go” and despite Ochoa’s orders, he said Ruben “gunned” the car out of her parking spot in the parking lot and began turning left to exit, in the same direction Ochoa was standing.
Ochoa, who stands 5-foot-8-inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, said he was wearing a black shirt that said “CONSTABLE” in 3.5 inch white letters across the front and back, black pants, and a lanyard with a Texas Peace Officer’s badge hanging from it. He said it would’ve been “impossible” for either Hancock or Ruben not to see him.
It was at that moment, as the car began screeching away, Ochoa said he “jumped back” to get out of the way, raised his pistol, and said he fired three shots at the car. Bates, who was behind the car, also fired a single round.
Two of Ochoa’s shots hit pavement while the third shot hit the car’s rear tire. Bates shot hit the car and ultimately wedged into an arm rest in the car.
Thankfully no one was hurt. However, after the shooting, the car did stop, and both peace officers secured and detained Ruben and Hancock. Ruben was taken to Jefferson County Jail and charged with aggravated assault on a peach officer. She bonded out of jail. Hancock was not charged at all. The car was impounded but later released to Ruben, Ochoa said.
Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony and is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Attempts to reach Ruben at her home in Beaumont were unsuccessful while contact was made with Hancock at his home in Port Arthur. He declined to speak at length about the subject, but did say that Ochoa’s story was “not true” and indicated that Ochoa was not at the driver’s side as he claims but was at the rear of the vehicle.
Ochoa denies Hancock’s story and said to refer to the statement he gave to police regarding the incident.
Meanwhile, Constable Collins defends the actions of his deputy.
“I got to support whatever they say,” said Collins, adding that his office did a complete investigation on its own. He said he didn’t seek out help from Port Arthur Police or from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office essentially because no one was struck in the shooting, nor was any disciplinary action handed down to Ochoa.
“The protocol (for an officer-involved shooting) would be, if he had struck somebody, he would’ve been taken off the streets, but there wasn’t anybody struck, or shot, so he’s working now,” Collins said.
The long-time law enforcement veteran specified why another agency wasn’t brought in to help with the investigation regarding its own personnel.
“If somebody would’ve been hit, we would’ve brought somebody in to do an investigation, but the DA will get in there and look at the case, and see what needs to be brought forward with the case, or what it’s going to be. It’s like any other case,” Collins said.
Collins said his office is still a law enforcement agency and still capable of conducting such an investigation.
“We don’t,” said Collins of regularly handling investigations, “but if we have to, we will.”
As for Ochoa, he said he’s aware of the talk in the public regarding the shooting questioning the legitimacy of the shoot, but he remains steadfast in his actions to fire off three shots at the car. He said shooting at a car was the last thing he wanted to do, and up to that point, he said everybody at the bowling alley was having a good time.
He adds that he had had no problems with Hancock or Ruben, both of whom he’d seen at various times throughout the night at the bowling alley.
And chances are, Ochoa said nothing would’ve come of the questioning of Hancock, whom Ochoa said they simply wanted to ask about the fight that was alleged to have occurred.
“We would’ve asked him what happened, and since we didn’t see the fight, we probably would’ve told both parties not to do it again, get in their cars and go home, and that would’ve been the end of it. I’ve been working at the bowling alley for five years, and fights happen. And a lot of times, we send them home,” Ochoa said.
But unfortunately it devolved into something more serious. “I don’t know what her intentions were,” he said, referring to Ruben’s refusal to get out of the car.
Ultimately, Ochoa, and Bates, made decisions that most police officers, despite the fact they all carry guns, have to make – fire their weapon.
“I was not afraid for my life, I was scared,” Ochoa said. “At that instant, you are scared. I reacted because of her actions. Luckily, she didn’t get hit, I did take her to jail, but she will have her day in court.”