Fight Back Series: Jose Jimenez Known to Protect and Assist- by John Vinuela, Contributing Author of American Extension Fighting

Updated: June 20, 2015

sailor-671187_1280I met Jose Jimenez a few months after joining the United States Naval Reserve. Our reserve center had developed a unit which would drill in San Diego and facilitate Naval Special Warfare Command Operations in Coronado and other parts of the globe. Some of us were deployed later and got every bit of the Navy we signed up for—and then some. Jose had just come in from the fleet. He was quiet and distant, not saying much of anything, but I took it upon myself to introduce myself and shake his hand. Drill weekends can creep by; making a close friend or two can help. When lunch time rolled around we agreed to grab a couple of sandwiches instead tagging along with the rest of the guys in our unit to the chow hall. Our Lt. later caught up with us and it was within our conversation that Jose revealed he had recently completed two Westpac tours aboard the U.S.S Lincoln. He was an MM, (Machinist Mate), who had worked, “five and dimes” in the engine room: on five hours, off ten. I remember him telling of six and six work and rest disbursements being the worst. “It was like being in a prison” he said laughing. He went on telling us that he had been a Team Leader of a Deep Rescue Team, and was recognized once by the Ship’s Capt. for saving a fellow shipmate. In all, Jose led his team in three successful rescues. He has a propensity to protect and assist. It seemed to be an instinct. He was also Capt. of the Ships Wrestling Team, and I suppose that’s where we connected. I had trained primarily in Muay Thai but we shared fight enthusiasm as well as a mutual respect for one another’s chosen style. That meeting led to many memorable drills and one Annual Training on Ford Island in Hawaii with S.E.A.L Delivery Team One.
After a few close years we shared through the Navy and fight training we eventually established different ambitions which took up the time we used in the past for training. Our relationship was reduced to occasional calls and once and again gatherings around the television for U.F.C. fight nights. We each had families, and were busy raising them. As life would have it our lives took different paths, but as in many relationship forged in the United States Military’s Fraternity it was tested through crisis.
One evening while watching the local news I learned that Jose was being accused of murder. The news depicted a cold heartless act of violence. I remember not understanding much, not wanting to understand, anything at all. I couldn’t imagine what circumstances might have led to Jose’s situation. There were many questions I knew would not be answered soon. For many months Jose was hung up in the system, lost his attorney (He was issued a Public Defender), the VA wouldn’t call back, and at times his spirit broke. The news continued with their theme and story line depicting a cold brute. It was frustrating. I knew my friend would was not the storied murderer, and that if he had killed a man it was most definitely in self-defense.
After a year’s jail time Jose was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and spent year and a half behind bars. Most of his incarceration was spent in a local jail, but for six months he was held in a state prison. While he was in jail a mutual friend was able to get a message to Jose. He was to call me from jail; I hoped that my listening would offer some relief. It was the first of many phone calls with the same conversation. It was in those exchanges that I learned of my friend’s courage and resolve.
Many times the most uncommon acts of bravery comes from the unassuming; the unnoticed— the understated. He endured. While doing his time he learned that his sister was brutally murdered. It would have been easy for Jose to blame life, give into anxieties and circumstances, but he didn’t. He regrouped, put his time in, and is now dealing with the fallout of, “that day” and the murder of his sister. He is employed living a responsible life. In some ways those events are still present. He agreed to a short interview; to tell his side. There are two sides to every story; even from the convicted.
Q. You were a quiet guy some years ago, but that was a silent strength. There seems to be a different silence now. I guess I’m taking advantage of our friendship by asking you what the difference is. Is there a difference?
A. Yeah I guess. It all builds up from time to time. I get grumpy and unruly; last night I didn’t want to go to work. (Jose occasionally bounces at a local bar) There are nights when I know that I’m not in a good way—I was upset and if I’d gone to work I know that I would have been useless. You gotta have a level head to deal with some of that. It can get bad; especially when some guys drink. Maybe I’ll do better after tomorrow.
Q. What’s happening tomorrow? I ask not fully understanding that tomorrow is very significant.
A. My sister’s killer is being sentenced tomorrow. I hope some justice will be dealt… I just found out that his brother was killed in a drive-by. I really don’t think I’ll benefit form showing up. The prosecution called me requesting that I make a statement ensuring the judge issue a strong punishment. Those lawyers don’t care about anything but their conviction rate. Things are settled now. I’ve learned to live with it and if I go over there and say whatever comes to mind… it’s just going to stir all kinds of shit again. Lawyers, what a f—ing joke. I’m dealing with it. I’ve tried to call the VA to get some assistance— nothing. I called them when I was locked up too.
Q. What happened? I asked referencing the VA statement.
A. Nothing. They won’t call back. I’ve called them several times. I called them then, while I was locked up, and I’ve called them now that I’m out. Nothing.
Jose breaks into laughter explaining that his outburst is due to the odd unfolding of his life. He adds that it is inexplicable how emotionally complicated his life gets at times. He tells me that he contributes to and attends funeral services for infants and children whose bodies have been abandoned. “It’s something I can get behind— the forgotten.” He pauses and then lets me know that he’s ready to continue.
Q. I called you because you had your day in court and were convicted of involuntary manslaughter; a much lesser conviction than Murder One— thank God. You had your day in court but not in a public forum. The news does a great job bringing some things to light, but can drop the ball if there’s been a change in a story causing them to recant or adjust their story. It’s safer to report something equally fantastic. So, here we go… What happened that day? Take your time.
A. I had gone over my father’s to help clean up his medicinal marijuana, “ranch.” I was a grey area with me. I was never fully comfortable with it but I went over to help. There was always a feeling of uneasiness, but never anything I felt that in needed to be too conscious over. He wanted me to pick up a few things for a BBQ he was having for some of his workers. Dad had all the permits which had to be displayed, so I didn’t question much of anything.
Q. So you showed up helped straighten things and then started the BBQ. Was that in the front or back of the house?
A. It was in the back. My dad had a tall chain-link fence installed separating the front from the back. We all gathered there. My father had employed some of his friends; one of them brought his daughter out that afternoon. It seemed like it slow day for the most part I guess… nothing out of the ordinary. Life seemed good. I had the day off to BBQ with my family and some friends.
Q. Where were you working at the time?
A. I was working a security detail at Saint Agnes Medical Center; occasionally a trip to the morgue, but it was good. I was employed in the line of work I was going to school for.
Q. Did you finish school?
A. (Laughing) Yea, I have an AA in criminology I’ll never be able to use.
Q. You wanted to go into law enforcement?
A. Well, that’s the direction I was going in—I got it though. Things are fine now. I’m not employed in my chosen line of work, but I have a good job. It’s the least of my worries.
Q. I think that’s important part of your story. It reveals what kind of person you are. So what happened after you were in the back of your father’s house cooking and sharing a few words with your father and friends?
A. Well it happened fast. We were caught off guard; somehow they had cut, or taken the lock off the gate, and backed their SUV into the back area of the property. But not completely where we were. They left the SUV towards the front; just though the gate. I really didn’t know what to think. You know I didn’t even notice that they were people from our church, but it hit all of a sudden as I realize what was happening.
Q. Your degree is in criminology, did your education and training help?
A. Yea, not in the way I’d hoped. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Not like that. I started to assess the threat, counting weapons, noting body language, listening to voices… They had three tactical 12 gauge shot guns, and exited their vehicle drawing on two of us while the shot caller walked around with his gun making demands. The shot caller kept insisting that my father pay a debt of 400 dollars, while two of the gunmen closed in on myself and my stepbrother. My stepbrother had a 22. Rifle which was ridiculed by the gunman in front of him. I stood in front of the girl that was with us: she was pregnant. In fact, the gunman who was in front of me was a woman.
Q. You stood in front of your friend’s daughter who was pregnant? What happened to them in the fiasco?
A. They backed out in the confusion of the moment and left. I stayed between the gunman and them while they gained distance from the situation. I’m glad they were smart enough to take advantage of the moment.
Q. So there was a gunman on you, one on your stepbrother, and an armed shot caller pacing around ordering your father to, “Pay up.” What happened next?
A. The gunman on my stepbrother began to berate his choice of firearms. My stepbrother had a 22. I suppose he found some humor in the caliber of my stepbrother’s gun. The irony is that before the afternoon was over that 22 took a gunman’s life. I was worried about the young lady in front of me. She told the shot called who was still waving and demanding to take the plants. My father welcomed them to whatever they wanted, and assured them that he simply wanted this situation to go away. I remember him saying, “Just take anything you need; we’re not looking for trouble.”
Q. You disarmed the gunman who was on you at some point— yes? How did that happen and how did that opportunity present itself?
A. The shot caller grew frustrated for some reason. The plants didn’t seem to be what they were really after and my father didn’t have the money that was supposedly owed. He walked to the front of the house ordering his guys to keep us under control. That’s when I started to talk to the gal in front of me and close the gap. I’d talk and lower my hands a little at a time. She noticed and pulled the trigger, but I wasn’t hit. I heard another shot go off and that’s when I made my move. I wasn’t pretty, and she held on to that thing like a cat, but I got it from her. Yea I didn’t look like Steven Segal (Laughs at himself and mocks the movement)
Q. What was going on with your stepbrother, and where had the shot caller gone?
A. I can’t tell you anything about my stepbrother; I was concentrating on controlling what was in front of me. And that other guy—I have no idea. I didn’t even hear him yelling any more. I had no idea where he’d gone.
Q. So you had the shot gun and it drawn on her. That was a turning of the tide for sure.
A. It was. I still didn’t know what was happening with my stepbrother. For all I might have guessed he might have shot the gunman in front of him by that time—but I don’t think so. I had a few choice words for the girl I had just taken the gun from and ordered her to get back into the SUV where the driver was still waiting. I escorted her at gun point to the SUV. I told her to open the door first so that I might clear the vehicle, which she did. I looked in and there was no one. I just wanted her to go home.
Q. Still no shot caller?
A. That’s when things really sped up. You know it’s like you kind of get used to the guns but as soon and they start going off it doesn’t matter what you say or what you might have said. It was surreal. The shot caller came around from the passenger side of the SUV. He was enraged with his gun drawn on me. I assessed the threat and shot him. It was clear what his intent was. I was later told that my brother’s gunman turned to draw on me and that’s when my stepbrother shot him.
Q. You gave them a chance to leave.
A. Yea. I just wanted them to go home. I wanted them to leave.
Q. Had anybody called the police at this point? What was happening?
A. The police? I really don’t think so… The shot caller laid there cursing me and threatening my family. These were people I had gone to church with. I stepped forward to shoot him again. My temper flared, but my stepbrother stopped me. The shot caller’s wife got out of the SUV, she was the driver, and asked my father to come over and pray for him. It was an outer-body experience. I grabbed the bag where their guns had been and left. I later turned myself in. Two guys died that day, but they didn’t have to.
This is the first part of a three part interview with Jose Jimenez. I don’t suppose it was easy for him to share his time with me on a Sunday afternoon. But I think we both agreed that there were details to his story which needed to be told. He’s and incredible person, owning his life with a tremendous amount of character. This is a telling of a different hero. His skillset did not take him to the front lines of a world conflict while in the armed forces, but it’s clear to see what kind of infantryman he might have been. During this interview session he stated that in a moment of reflection with unnamed individuals that it might have been legally more convenient to, “take all the bad guys out.” I asked him what he thought about that and he answered, “That would have been easy… sure. But then I’d really be everything they were accusing me of, and there’s no turning around from that.”

John Vinuela M. Ed Contributing Author for American Extension Fighting.