An Oakland police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in the back last year has been fired by the city for violating department use-of-force policies, officials confirmed Friday.
Officer Hector Jimenez was fired June 4 for the July 25, 2008, fatal shooting of Mack Jody Woodfox, 28, whose wounds included more than one to the back. He was shot while attempting to flee on foot after leading police on a high-speed car chase, authorities said.
Jimenez’s firing came a few months after the department’s Executive Force Review Board, composed of senior commanders, concluded the shooting violated some department policies regarding use of deadly force.
It was not known what specific policies were violated. But sources said a main concern was that Woodfox was shot when he no longer posed a threat to Jimenez, having run by him.
Department spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason said he could not comment because the matter was a personnel issue.
Woodfox’s death was the second fatal shooting Jimenez had been involved in, but sources said that played no role in the decision to fire him. He and another officer fatally shot Andrew Moppin, 20, who was also unarmed, on Dec. 31, 2007.
But the review board ruled that shooting was in compliance with department policies.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is still investigating both shootings.
Justin Buffington, an attorney with the Pleasant Hill firm Rains, Lucia and Stern, which represents Jimenez, said Friday that Jimenez will appeal the firing, which he called “absolutely inappropriate.”
Buffington disputed the contention that the December 2007 shooting did not play a role in the firing.
“I’d be remiss to think that had nothing to do with it,” he said.
Buffington said in the December 2007 shooting “the suspect reached behind his back for what the officers thought was a firearm. In the second shooting (Woodfox) not only reached in his waistband where suspects are known to carry guns, but he also charged police officers eschewing other avenues of escape.”
The incident with Woodfox was “more threatening” to Jimenez than the December 2007 shooting, Buffington said.
Attorney John Burris, who represents the families of Woodfox and Moppin in separate wrongful-death lawsuits, commended the department for taking action he deemed appropriate discipline.
“We’ve always felt (Jimenez’s) conduct — especially in the Woodfox case — justified criminal prosecution,” Burris said Friday. “Two shootings in a short period of time like that is just unconscionable.”
Burris said he hoped Jimenez’s termination would help set standards of accountability in the department so that other officers use lethal force only when it is justified.
“I think to the extent that there’s a real chance you can be disciplined for improper use of force with your weapon, it can be a deterrent,” Burris said, adding “hopefully other officers will see there can be real consequences to it.”
Woodfox, who unbeknown to Jimenez and the officer he was with had a criminal record, led the officers on a chase in the Fruitvale district after they tried to stop him for driving under the influence. When Woodfox did stop the car at Fruitvale Avenue and E. 17th Street, he ran from the car and made what Jimenez and the other officer later said was a furtive movement toward his waistband. Jimenez, who was the passenger in the police car, was the only one to fire his gun.
Moppin also was shot after running from a car stopped by police. He was found by Jimenez and another officer — who were not involved in the car stop — trying to hide between a car and a door in the 1200 block of 47th Avenue. Police said at the time he was told several times to surrender and keep his hands in sight but refused to surrender and swore at the officers before making a quick move toward his rear waistband like he was reaching for a gun which led to him being shot. No gun was found on him.
Jimenez was a police cadet before becoming an officer in February 2007.