IHOP shooter found not guilty on all counts
'No justice' victim Mitchell says outside court
Sutter County jurors on Wednesday found a Fresno man not guilty on all counts in the March shooting of Obadiah Samuel Mitchell at the Yuba City IHOP restaurant.
Jessie Hipolito Pena, 44, was charged with attempting to murder Mitchell after confronting him inside the restaurant for using profanity.
Jurors could have found Pena guilty of the lesser charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter but also rejected that option.
The jury forewoman declined comment as she left the courtroom, but another member of the panel, Ashley Yetter of Yuba City, said jurors felt evidence was insufficient to indicate whether Pena acted in self-defense or not.
Pena said he saw a metal object in Mitchell's hand, telling police at first he thought it was a gun. Later, he said it might have been a knife or an antenna. He fired once, hitting Mitchell in the chest.
"I had nothing in my hand. I don't know what to say," Mitchell said as he sat on steps outside the courthouse.
"There is no justice, no justice at all," Mitchell said.
"It's like Casey Anthony all over again," he said, referring to the Florida woman who was recently found not guilty of murdering her daughter.
After initially confronting Mitchell, Pena went outside to get his gun from his car, then came back inside the restaurant and asked him to step outside.
Mitchell said he thought he was going outside to shake hands with Pena. But Pena fired his 9 mm handgun without saying a word, he said.
Police found a knife from the restaurant near the wounded Mitchell. It will always be a mystery how it got there, Pena's attorney, Antonio R. Alvarez, said after the verdict.
A restaurant security camera showed Mitchell leaving his booth and following Pena outside without picking up a knife from the table.
Alvarez said he thought Pena "came across as reasonable" when he testified Friday.
"I think they believed my client was justified in his actions," Alvarez said.
Pena testified he heard something metallic hit the ground after Mitchell was shot, Alvarez said.
The jury acquitted Pena on two other charges: assault with a gun and battery causing great bodily injury.
"That was a great job the jury did. We're just thankful," said Pena's sister-in-law, Arleen Ramirez of San Bernardino County.
Outside the courthouse, Mitchell, a single father of two girls, said he will have to return to school and find a new line of work because the shooting left him unable to raise his arms above his head. He was a construction worker.
He probably would have died if one of his friends had not kept pressure on the wound before paramedics arrived, Mitchell said.
Surgeons operated on Mitchell to repair his collapsed left lung. He was in the intensive care unit at Rideout Memorial Hospital for several days.
Pena can now go home, get his permit back to carry a concealed gun, "and maybe do this to somebody else," Mitchell said.
"But everything comes full circle. He has to stand before God, not before me," he said.
"I'm just glad it's over. Now I can go on with my life," Mitchell said.
CONTACT reporter Rob Young at 749-4784.