By Henry K. Lee 8/13/15
Oakland police body-camera video and surveillance footage from a store camera show a robbery suspect armed with a gun before he was shot and killed by officers, a police union attorney and a witness said Thursday.
The 24-year-old suspect, whose name hasn’t been released, was shot by police after he led them on a car chase from 69th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland to 27th Street at Interstate 980 near downtown about 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
The man crashed into a motorist near Northgate Avenue, tried to carjack a second vehicle and then led police on a foot chase for less than a block to 27th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where he brandished a stolen 9mm semiautomatic handgun and was shot by three officers, police said. Authorities said an autopsy showed the man was shot from the front.
He died at a hospital, becoming the third suspect to be shot dead by Oakland police since June.
Footage from police body cameras show the man pointing a gun at one of the officers before he was shot, said Justin Buffington, an attorney representing the Oakland Police Officers Association.
“There’s clear body-camera footage,” Buffington said. “He had a gun and was pointing it at the police officers.”
Although the suspect did not fire the loaded gun, “pointing a gun at an officer is enough to suffice responding with deadly force,” Buffington said.
Oakland police declined a request by The Chronicle to view the body-camera footage, citing the ongoing investigation.
Police have also obtained security video from the Discount Market at the corner where the shooting occurred.
Outside, a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and liquor bottles marked the spot where the suspect was shot. Someone also placed a sign there reading, “Stop Police Murder.” Protesters plan to hold a vigil at the scene of the shooting at 6 p.m. Friday.
Jim Kim, 70, who owns the building that houses the Discount Market, told The Chronicle he saw footage from the store showing the suspect holding a gun with his arm raised shortly before police fired. He said the footage, which has been turned over to police, was taken by a camera attached to the outside of the market that looks south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Kim said the store video backs the police version of the shooting.
“I saw it. He had a gun in his right hand,” said Kim, raising his right arm to demonstrate. “He made a motion, like aiming at the police.”
The shooting touched off hours of protest Wednesday night, with a small group of demonstrators marching past the scene of the shooting and walking toward Oakland police headquarters. Along the way, some protesters ignited fires, blocked freeway off-ramps and broke windows at the Starbucks coffee shop at Oakland City Center.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the city has been thrust into the middle of a “national conversation of dire importance” about justice and how it is administered by law enforcement.
“Given what is at stake, as a community we have an obligation to acknowledge and work to correct the wrongs of the past and the legacy they have left behind. At the same time, we must resist the urge to judge every new set of circumstances on anything other than the facts at hand,” Schaaf said.
The shooting is under investigation by police and the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
“It’s important to point out that the Oakland Police Department has taken a number of steps over the past several years to reduce the likelihood of officer-involved shootings from occurring,” said Police Chief Sean Whent. “However, one thing we cannot control are the actions of the people that we attempt to arrest, and unfortunately, sometimes incidents like (this) still occur.”
Steven Betz, another police union attorney, said he has represented other officers involved in on-duty shootings, and rejected criticism that police are trigger happy.
Police “certainly do not go out looking to get into gunfights with people,” Betz said.