Case Acquitted: Trial Over a Bathroom Brawl That Turned Into a Non-Fatal Shooting Begins

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

Opening statements as well as victim testimony were delivered on Feb.12 in a non-fatal shooting case. Proceedings began in DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz’s courtroom. 

Jose Zuniga, 29, 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 an incident that occurred on the 400 block of 2nd Street, NW on Nov. 11, 2023.  

The attack took place in the bathroom of a homeless shelter, where Zuniga allegedly discharged a firearm and threw a power tool at the victim after Zuniga was refused access to the bathroom. The victim was uninjured. 

During their opening statements, the prosecution stated they believe Zuniga “took a minor inconvenience and blew it way out of proportion,” adding that they intend to use body camera footage, surveillance footage, photos, and witness testimony to prove Zuniga’s involvement in the shooting beyond a reasonable doubt.

In response, Zuniga’s defense attorney, Joseph Molina, presented an “alternative version of events,” stating the victim and his brother “ordered” Zuniga out of the bathroom. Molina does not deny that the altercation between Zuniga, his associates, and the victim was “one step short of a brawl”.

However, the defense holds that “confusion over the identities” has caused the victim to falsely accuse Zuniga of being the one to discharge the firearm. Molina is asking the jury to acquit on any charges having to do with the firearm.

Following the opening statements, the prosecution called  an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who was the first to interview the victim following the shooting. 

Body camera footage of the interview reveals the victim identifying Zuniga by photo from a binder of the homeless shelter residents. The victim also mentions a scar on the shooter’s face in the video. 

During cross examination, Molina pointed out that the victim claimed that 15 men were involved in the incident in the video. Molina argued that the MPD officer had not asked the victim for a description of the shooter, and had instead given them a binder with “at least 100 photos” in it. 

The officer concerned himself with the shooter rather than any of the possible assailants.

When asked about the description of the shooter given by the victim, the officer stated he heard from other officers that the victim stated the shooter was wearing a black coat.

Following the officer’s testimony, the prosecution called on the victim. 

According to the victim, Zuniga was aggressive during the altercation and was the one to pull the trigger. 

During his testimony, the victim claimed Zuniga, who he identified as the shooter, was wearing a “long zip-up…white… with cartoons on it,” which seemingly contradicts what the officer claimed. 

Due to time constraints, the victim was unable to conclude their testimony. 

Trial will resume Feb. 13.

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