Demian Bulwa and Henry K. Lee, 08/13/12
Oakland has opened an investigation into the handling of a fatal police shooting after lawyers for the officer accused the Police Department and the city attorney’s office of withholding a report favorable to the officer, officials said Monday.
The officer’s lawyers said independent expert Alexander Jason’s report was kept from department investigators who reviewed the Sept. 25 shooting, as well as from the officer himself.
Police Chief Howard Jordan initially ruled in April that the officer, Bryan Franks, should be fired over the shooting in East Oakland, which was filmed by a camera on the officer’s chest.
But after the report surfaced last month – in which Jason said Franks’ life had been in danger before he opened fire – Jordan changed his mind and cleared the officer. Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana said Monday that the city was hiring an outside firm to investigate what happened.
The investigation comes as the police force, which has been under court oversight for a decade and faces a possible federal takeover, tries to complete a batch of reforms and show it can police itself.
Jordan declined to discuss Jason’s report on the killing of 34-year-old Arthur Jarvis Raleigh, who was shot while fleeing from Franks following a traffic stop.
The chief would only say that he changed his mind about firing Franks after the officer exercised his right to a so-called Skelly hearing, in which public employees can challenge proposed disciplinary action.
“There was some factual information that was not included in the Skelly packet (of information) that became available later on,” Jordan said. “Following the Skelly hearing, I decided the officer had acted in compliance with policy.”
Former S.F. cop
Several sources familiar with the matter said the new information was the report by Jason, a former San Francisco police officer who specializes in analyzing shootings.
In the report, which was obtained by The Chronicle, Jason wrote that Franks had faced “an immediate life-threatening situation.”
Jason declined to discuss the contents of the report Monday, saying he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the city.
His $15,000 contract with the city indicates he signed the agreement in April, long after he says he delivered the report and just days after the chief decided Franks should be fired.
The city attorney’s office did not dispute that the report was delivered to Franks’ attorney only in July. City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement that the analysis had not been “intentionally withheld.”
Franks’ attorney, Michael Rains, said Monday he learned about the analysis when he spoke to Jason in early April about an unrelated matter. Rains said his office repeatedly asked for the analysis and finally received it July 12.
He asked for a city investigation in a letter to Santana on Thursday. He also said he would file a complaint with the State Bar against Deputy City Attorney Rocio Fierro, the office’s point person on the investigation, on the grounds she allegedly hid the report from Franks.
Parker called the accusation baseless.
The shooting happened on the 9900 block of Cherry Street when Franks, who has been on the force for nearly four years, got in a foot chase with Raleigh after a traffic stop shortly before 5 p.m. on Sept. 25.
Franks told investigators he had grabbed Raleigh, causing both to fall, before Raleigh dropped and then picked up a revolver. When Raleigh turned as if to fire, Franks said, the officer fired his own pistol.
The shooting was filmed by Franks’ chest camera, a first for a Bay Area officer. That footage has not been publicly released, and police have refused to show it to Raleigh’s family, said attorney John Burris, who has sued the city on behalf of the family.
Jason concluded in his report that Franks had fired three times in three-quarters of a second. He said Raleigh’s revolver is not seen on the footage, but was found in a nearby yard after it was “apparently thrown by the suspect” during the last seconds of the encounter.
“After the suspect had picked up the revolver and began to rotate toward Officer Franks, he could not have waited until the suspect’s revolver was pointed at him,” Jason wrote. “It was not possible for Officer Franks to be certain that the suspect no longer held the revolver.”
Rains said Jason had told him he took the city job soon after being visited by Fierro and Capt. Paul Figueroa, who was then head of police internal affairs. Figueroa did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages Monday.
But Rains said the analysis was not provided to the internal affairs investigator assigned to the shooting, nor to a panel of senior officers who reviewed the shooting. Rains said the investigator and the panel had found the shooting to be justified before Jordan initially disagreed.