Oakland cops kill fleeing drug suspect
Henry K. Lee
Oakland police shot and killed a drug suspect who tried to speed away from an arrest early Friday with an officer in his car, authorities said.
The shooting happened about 2:35 a.m. at 14th and Jefferson streets, just blocks from Oakland City Hall, shortly after an officer saw what he thought was a suspicious car parked on Jefferson and approached the two male occupants.
The officer smelled marijuana and tried to handcuff the driver of the Honda Civic, who resisted, said Officer Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.
The suspect started the engine and stepped on the gas, propelling the officer into the Honda, Thomason said. The car crashed into parked vehicles, flinging the officer into the back seat, police said.
Another officer saw what was happening and shot the driver, who was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital. His name has not been released. The second man in the car was detained.
Police found a loaded gun and ecstasy, crack cocaine and marijuana in the car, said Harry Stern, an attorney for the Oakland Police Officers Association.
Stern said the officer in the car reported seeing the passenger handling the gun.
The officer, an 11-year veteran, suffered minor injuries in what police characterized as a kidnapping. The officer who killed the driver, an eight-year veteran, was placed on routine paid administrative leave pending investigations by Oakland police and the Alameda County district attorney’s office. The names of the officers involved in the incident were not released.
Thomason said police are trained to handcuff drivers while they are in the car, instead of ordering them out, to minimize the chance a suspect will run away.
The officer who opened fire did so only when he was confident of his target, Thomason said. His fellow officer was not in the line of fire, he said.
“We are trained to shoot only when we know we have our target,” Thomason said. “The officer who shot was sure of his target and hit his target.”
It is the sixth fatal Oakland officer-involved shooting this year. There were five such shootings in the city in 2007.
The latest shooting brings to 89 the number of homicides in the city this year. Police shootings are included in Oakland’s official homicide total, even if authorities later conclude that the killings were justified.