Sean Maher, 3/7/11
The police department will have to rehire Officer Hector Jimenez, who was fired after a 2008 shooting in which he killed an unarmed man who was running away from him at the time, an attorney said Sunday.
Jimenez shot Mack “Jody” Woodfox, 27, in July 2008 after Woodfox led officers on a short vehicle chase in the Fruitvale neighborhood. When Woodfox pulled over, a witness said, he got out of the car with his hands up, but ran when officers “started shouting.”
Jimenez was among the officers at the scene and said he fired at Woodfox — hitting him three times in the back — when he saw Woodfox reaching for his waistband as he ran in the direction of a second police officer. Jimenez said he thought the other officer was in danger and that he fired to protect him.
Woodfox’s family found that explanation unacceptable, and hired civil rights attorney John Burris to sue the police department. The city eventually settled with the family for $650,000, and Jimenez was fired.
However, Jimenez continued to contest his treatment by the city, and under an arbitration agreement announced last week, he will be reinstated and given back-pay.
Burris called the decision “a kick in the stomach” and said he dreads speaking with Woodfox’s family.
Burris said the Woodfox killing was the “most egregious police shooting I’d seen” until the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant III, who was killed by an officer in 2009 as he lay face down on the ground, unarmed and restrained by a second officer.
“I have aggressively sought to have (Jimenez) prosecuted with the DA’s office and the U.S. Attorney, but after the Oscar Grant shooting happened, most other cases were put on the back burner,” Burris said.
The Woodfox shooting was the second time in seven months Jimenez had shot and killed an unarmed man.
On New Year’s Eve 2007, he and another officer shot and killed 20-year-old Andrew Moppin after a traffic stop, when Moppin ran and hid and then shouted and swore at officers, police officials said.
“This is a case where it’s astonishing to me that a guy who killed two unarmed people in a seven-month period could continue to be a police officer,” Burris said.
The only legal recourse that seems available against Jimenez at this point is criminal prosecution, Burris said, though he said he’s gotten no indication that will happen.
Police officials did not immediately return requests for comment Sunday. There was no official word on when Jimenez may return to duty or where he could be assigned.