A Fort Worth probationary officer fired by the police chief for shooting at a Jeep whose driver tried to flee a traffic stop was caught on dash cam audio remarking that she was going to get in trouble and “I don’t know why I shot,” according to police documents.
In the audio, recorded April 7 after other officers had arrived on the scene of the shooting, former officer Lina Mino could be heard saying, “I’m gonna get in (expletive) trouble.”
When another officer asked why, Mino replied that she had shot into the side door and later remarked that she “shouldn’t have shot,” according to the audio, released to the Star-Telegram through an open records request.
“I don’t know why I shot,” Mino is heard saying. “...I’m pissed off because I don’t know why I shot, it was so stupid of me to (expletive) shoot.”
Mino was fired by Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald on April 12, one day before she would have completed her one-year probationary period and received Civil Service protection, including the right to appeal. She was accused of violating the department’s use of force policy.
The Fort Worth Police Officers Association has criticized the chief for firing Mino just five days after the shooting.
Manny Ramirez, president of the association, has described the investigation into the shooting as rushed, flawed and incomplete, and says he believes the chief hurried to fire Mino to avoid an appeal.
Ramirez said Wednesday that he believes Mino’s remarks on the dash cam audio are indicative of an officer who knows and admits that she made a mistake.
“It doesn’t change the fact that we have accidental discharges every single month in this department and nobody gets terminated for it,” Ramirez said.
According to the internal affairs investigation:
Mino fired one shot at the Jeep as the driver, a felon, attempted to drive away during a traffic stop in the 2800 block of Hale Avenue. She had asked the driver to get out of his car after learning he was wanted on a drug warrant. Instead, she saw him turn toward the center console, then turn the the wheel toward her and begin pulling away, according to the investigation.
The Jeep traveled a short distance and came to a stop against a curb on the opposite side of the street. The driver, Frederick Billiot, ultimately fled on foot and was arrested after police found him hiding under a bed in a stranger’s nearby home.
Neither Billiot nor a passenger in the Jeep was injured in the shooting.
Billiot later told police that he ran because he knew he had warrants and did not want to go back to jail. During the traffic stop, he said, he had retrieved a .380 pistol from the center console and threw it in the back of the Jeep.
A sergeant who responded to the scene told major case detectives that Mino had told him that she fired her gun because she saw the Jeep start to move and believed it was going to back up and hit her, putting her in fear for her life.
Mino told investigators that she had placed her hand on her gun after seeing Billiot lean toward his center console.
“Officer Mino said she could tell by Frederick’s action that he was looking for a way out,” the summary of her interview states.
She said Billiot then turned the wheel toward the left three times, put the Jeep in drive and started to move forward.
“Officer Mino said Frederick kept going towards her and it scared her to the point that she thought she was going to get ran over,” the summary states.
Mino said she started moving over, envisioning herself tripping and getting run over by the back tire. Mino told investigators that she shot at the Jeep to stop it and keep it from running over her.
Unlike other investigations, Ramirez said, Mino’s did not include interviews with her training officer or police academy staff. He said those he has heard from describe Mino as a easily trainable and very good officer.
“If this investigation had taken 90 days, like they usually do, they would have had an opportunity to learn those facts,” Ramirez said.
Nor, Ramirez said, did the investigation include recommendations from Mino’s chain of command.
“It’s the first time I know of that a case has gone directly from internal affairs to the chief,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said he is still waiting to hear back from a grievance filed by the association on Mino’s behalf prior to her termination, over procedural issues in the investigation that he believes are contract violations.
“If the grievance is agreed to by the chain of command or by city management, essentially she comes back and there’s another investigation,” Ramirez said. “We’re asking for a complete and thorough investigation, not a rushed one.”