Case Acquitted: One Witness Says Defendant Was Not the Suspect in Non-Fatal Shooting Trial

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Jose Zuniga was acquitted of all charges on Feb. 15, 2024.

On Feb. 13, an eyewitness in a non-fatal shooting trial before DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz testified that the man holding the gun at the crime scene was not the defendant.

Jose Zuniga, 28, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and simple assault, for his alleged involvement in a non-fatal shooting incident. The incident occurred on November 11, 2023, at a shelter on the 400 block of 2nd Street, NW. There were no injuries reported. 

According to Metropolitan Police Department MPD documents, two men were involved in an argument while inside a shelter. During the argument, the suspect shot at the victim and fled the scene. The victim was not injured. The suspect was apprehended by responding officers.

The prosecution began by calling the victim to continue his testimony. He testified that, after the man he had argued with left a bathroom, the individual returned with around 12 people, who began hitting him with tools that he had been using.

He stated that he tried to defend himself by confronting his attackers in the hallway when he heard around five gunshots. His brother then pushed him back into the bathroom, and they were able to call 911. The attackers then quickly left, and one man stayed behind allegedly to pick up the shell casings.

The victim testified that the shooter had been wearing a white shirt with a cartoon character on it, and had a scar on his face. He stated that he had identified the shooter as the defendant during a police lineup, and that he was “absolutely sure” he identified the right person. 

During cross examination, Zuniga’s defense attorney, Joseph Molina, asked the witness if he had spoken aggressively to the suspect or insulted him when he had asked him to leave the bathroom. The witness responded that he had spoken to the suspect calmly because “he was a professional” and had never spoken to him in an aggressive way. 

The victim also stated that he did not pick up any weapons or tools to use against the attackers in self-defense, and had only tried to “push and punch” his way out of the bathroom and into the hallway.

Molina asked the victim what exactly happened after his brother pushed him into the bathroom. According to the victim, it all happened very quickly, but he remembers speaking to the police very briefly on the phone before they showed up. Molina then asked the victim why there was no record of him calling 911, but the witness had no answer.

The victim confirmed that he had not been injured, and had not received treatment for any injuries after the crime.

Following the victim’s testimony, the prosecution called the victim’s brother to testify, as he was working with the victim during the shooting. His testimony differed from the victim’s. 

The victim’s brother testified that the victim never left the bathroom during the shooting, stating that he had pushed himself and his brother to the floor to avoid the bullets of the assailant. 

During cross examination, Molina asked if the victim’s brother had actually seen the bullets fired when he tackled his brother to the ground. Though he was confident Zuniga was the assailant who had fired, the eyewitness admitted that he had never actually seen shots being fired.

Next, the prosecution called up another family member who had been working in the bathroom during the offense. 

According to the witness, he had seen a man in a white puffer coat point a gun at his uncle, but had been unable to see much due to how crowded the hallway had been. He added that he heard two or three gunshots coming from the doorway of the bathroom.

During cross examination, Molina asked the witness if the defendant was the man he had seen in the white puffer coat and holding the gun. The witness responded that he was not. 

Next, the prosecution called another family member who had witnessed the crime. He stated that a man wearing a white puffer jacket, and with a neck tattoo, had pushed him and his cousin down the hallway, and pulled out a gun as he approached the bathroom. He stated that he didn’t see anything that happened after, but heard three or four gunshots.

During cross examination, Molina also asked this witness if the man in the puffer coat was the defendant, to which the witness responded that he was not. 

Then the prosecution called an employee of the shelter who was cleaning in the bathroom at the time of the attack. The eyewitness saw a man she called “Mickey Mouse” with a drill moments before shots were fired. 

She calls the man “Mickey Mouse” because of a sweater he often wore with the cartoon character around the shelter. The eyewitness believed that Zuniga was “Mickey Mouse,” and he was seen holding an active drill with both hands.  

Despite testifying to hearing gunshots, the eyewitness never saw a gun. In cross examination, Molina affirmed the last thing the witness saw before leaving was Mickey Mouse with the drill in his hands. 

The witness testified there was another individual allegedly involved in the shooting who was known as “El Mecanico,” and she saw him in the doorway of the bathroom at the time of the incident. According to the witness, he was wearing a white jacket.

In redirect, the eyewitness affirmed to prosecution that she only heard gunshots after she had left the shelter. 

Prosecution then called an expert forensic scientist to testify. 

Finally, the prosecution called a detective from the MPD to testify regarding footage he collected from three cameras around the building where the crime occurred.

He stated that he had come in contact with Zuniga before, and had seen him wearing the same clothes as he appeared to be wearing in the security camera footage. He stated that Zuniga was “facing the camera in a Mickey Mouse long sleeve shirt.”

Parties are slated to return Feb. 14.

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