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Riverside County's latest police shooting

by Press Enterprise Thursday, Mar. 15, 2001 at 5:32 PM

Before, police officers justified shootings, by saying "they were going for their gun." Now, they can shoot unarmed people to death simply for saying they were moving...

Group vows to continue protesting shooting
Demonstrators still don't know the name of the Moreno Valley officer involved or the autopsy results.

By Marlowe Churchill
The Press-Enterprise

About 75 people marched on Moreno Valley's City Hall and police station Tuesday afternoon in the second day of public protests over the weekend shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer.

The group's members vowed to continue daily protests until they learn the circumstances of the shooting and the identity of the officer who shot Dante Meniefield, 23, of Moreno Valley. They also questioned why it took authorities more than 12 hours to notify Meniefield's family of his death.

"Those are all good questions, and those are our questions also," Moreno Valley Police Chief Richard Coz said.

But answers won't come until an investigation is completed, he added.

Coz told Meniefield's family and 25 protesters on Monday that the probe could be finished by the end of this week. The police chief also said he would not identify the officer, who is on paid administrative leave, until the inquiry is over.

On Tuesday, sheriff's Sgt. Mark Lohman said an autopsy was completed, but the results won't be released until a coroner's inquiry is finished.

Meniefield died from a gunshot wound to the head, Lohman said.

The delay in notifying the family about the death was because Meniefield had to be identified through fingerprints, Lohman said, as he was not carrying identification.

Tuesday's 90-minute rally was led by the Rev. Bernell Butler, a cousin of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller. The teen, who was sitting unresponsive in a locked car with a gun on her lap, was fatally shot by Riverside police officers in 1998.

Butler, using a bullhorn to lead the chants, led the group from the corner of Alessandro Boulevard and Frederick Street to the city's nearby administrative center. Coz then came out of the police station alone and invited the group to come inside the Police Department's conference room to discuss the issues with him.

Meniefield was shot about 12:20 a.m. Saturday when two officers responded to an apartment complex at 22960 Allies Place. Officers smelled marijuana smoke coming from a ground-level apartment as they looked for trespassers, authorities said.

Both officers went inside with flashlights, and one spotted Meniefield crouched behind a counter. When he moved, the officer shot once and fatally wounded him, authorities said. A second man found inside the apartment was questioned and released.

Meniefield's father, Gary Meniefield, said he received a call from somebody about 30 minutes after the shooting, asking if his son was home. The person told him that somebody had just been shot.

"I never went back to sleep worrying about that," the father said.

Donna Michelle Meniefield, the man's mother, said the family did not receive confirmation of his death until about 2:30 p.m. She said the family wants an independent autopsy performed.

Marlowe Churchill can be reached by e-mail at mchurchill@pe.com or by phone at (909) 656-3339.

Published 3/14/2001

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