DUNNIGAN, Calif. -- Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto has launched an investigation into claims by a couple that a deputy stuck a gun to the head of their 9-year-old daughter as officers executed a search warrant in June.
The girl's father, Santiago Ochoa, said he recognized two of the deputies who came to their rural home on June 11 as Hernan Oviedo and Hector Bautista, gang-unit officers involved in the controversial shooting of farm worker Luis Gutierrez in April.
Prieto said none of the deputies involved in the search of the Ochoa home could discuss the incident because it is under investigation.
The sheriff said he is skeptical of the girl's claim, which surfaced this weekend during hearings by a self-appointed citizens panel, the Independent Civil Rights Commission. The panel, chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, is examining alleged abuses by Yolo County's gang-suppression unit.
Prieto and other law enforcement authorities have questioned the panel's political motives and credibility.
"I doubt seriously whether anybody put a gun to this young girl's head," Prieto said Tuesday. "It's common sense: Do you really think a policeman would perceive a 9-year-old girl as a threat?"
At the Ochoa family home in Dunnigan, Cristal Ochoa, now 10, recalled what she says happened that day in June:
As she finished her breakfast cereal, she heard a pounding on the door and a commotion in the laundry room off the kitchen, where her mother and father had gone. She said she was nervous and went to the living room when someone yelled "get out."
When she saw an officer with a gun in the kitchen, she put her hands over her head. He grabbed her by the back of the neck, and shoved his gun into her temple, she said.
He kept it pressed there as he dragged her through the laundry room and pushed her out the side door, where she ran to her mother, shaking and crying, she said.
Cristal said she saw the gun and felt the cold metal "wiggling around" against her skin. "When they put the gun on my head, I felt like they were going to kill me," the fourth-grader said.
Her father and mother -- Santiago Ochoa and Gricelda Rodriguez -- said they were home with Cristal on June 11 when they heard a loud banging on the side of their house.
As she peered through the door to see what was happening, Rodriguez said deputies burst in, grabbed her by the neck, pointed a gun at her head and forced her to her knees. They took her outside.
Ochoa said deputies also grabbed his neck and pointed a gun at him. Deputies took him outside, too.
The girl came next.
When the deputies let the family back in the house, Cristal said she hid under blankets. Her parents said she vomited and had a nosebleed that day, and remains physically and emotionally troubled from the incident.
According to a search warrant affidavit, deputies were looking for gang paraphernalia, weapons and other evidence against Santiago Ochoa Jr., 19, who was suspected of committing a gang-related drive-by shooting.
Court documents indicated that they seized guns and what were described as gang-related music and drawings.
Ochoa Jr.'s trial was held last year in Colusa County. Jurors acquitted him of all charges after conflicting testimony by the alleged victim and witnesses, said defense lawyer Roberto Marquez.