FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cops Kill Again in Oakland

Here we go again: last Saturday, July 19, another police kill at the same rail transit station in Oakland, California, where 22-year-old Oscar Grant was shot in the back last year.

And while the circumstances of Saturday’s early morning police shooting are very different from those in the Grant case, there are many questions that need to raised about a violent police over-reaction.

On Saturday, Oakland and Bay Area Rapid Transit police shot and killed a reportedly “Hispanic looking” man near the Fruitvale station in Oakland. The first reports, all from the police, said the man was “armed,” wielding two knives.
The dead man was not identified until Sunday, when an OPD spokesperson gave his name and age as Fred Colllins, 48. None of the dozens of officers who answered the call were hurt during the incident.

According to police officials, Oakland homicide detectives, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and the internal affairs units of the Oakland and BART police departments are conducting administrative investigations into the shooting.

An eyewitness, looking out her window, said the man was walking backwards yelling for the police to shoot him. According to a television interview with the eye-witness, the man had his hands up.

Ultimately, the man died in a barrage of police bullets – at least five cops shot him down. Dozens of cops were on the scene. Given the number of shooters, it may never be known which bullet killed the man.

The description given by several eye-witnesses does not appear to square with the police decision to cut the man down with a hail of bullets, from at least five guns. Police claim they tasered the man several times but it didn’t have any effect. Then he came at them with a pair of knives.
Here’s what one eye-witness was filmed saying to local TV. Again she watched it out the window of her house in Fruitvale, a short distance from the rail station:

“When they turned here at the corner, there was, I want to say, about 10 policemen, all gathered together. And then I saw this man walking backwards, like this (both hands up), saying, ‘Shoot me, shoot me, shoot me’! And the police, I didn’t hear none of the police say anything. They were just gathered together, following him while he was walking backwards all the way through that street,” said Letty, who did not give her last name. “And then all of a sudden, I hear a little pop and then right after that I hear bup, bup, bup, bup, bup!”

The BayCitizen reported, according to eye-witness interviews, that the man was wearing two backpacks – one on his back and one on his front, and was shot after he tried to reach inside one. Police say nothing about a backpack.
Fourteen-year-old Florencia Osores told the BayCitizen that she watched the shooting out her window with her family. Osores said she saw about “15” cops in pursuit. The man stopped running and turned around.

“The cops said, ‘Stop!’” she said. Collins turned his back to officers and “looked like he was taking something from his bag.” According to the teen eye-witness, that’s when the cops opened up with a barrage of fire. “I’ve never seen the cops versus a person before,” she said. “They shouldn’t be trying to kill him. Couldn’t they have shot him in the leg?”

Mesha Monge Irizarry knows a great deal about police overreaction and a lot about the nature and impact of the 50,000 watt taser the police claim was ineffective in stopping their alleged suspect.

Over the years, Irizarry has given courses to the police in non-violent escalation, but in a tragic twist of fate saw her own 23-year-old son, Idriss Stelley, a 4.0 college student, go down in a barrage of 48 bullets in 2001.

“I have thoroughly studied this. It’s a common practice for police to all starting firing at once,” said Irizarry. “They know when they shoot together, it’s almost impossible to find out who shot first or whose bullet ended a life.”

She says she’s extremely suspicious about the police claims that the taser didn’t stop the man or even slow him down.

“There’s no such thing as it doesn’t have any effect, like the police are claiming. They’re full of bull. It’s not like a little shock from a faulty circuit. It totally shuts your body down. Many people have died from one application.”

Irizarry volunteered to be tasered in 2006 during an international human rights gathering in San Francisco. “It takes you out for a full seven seconds. That’s when the police are supposed to act” to subdue a person.

James Keys, chair of San Francisco City and County Board of Mental Health, also has grave doubts about the police claims that the taser had little or no effect. “I find it hard to believe that they shot him like that with a taser several times and he kept going … That amount of voltage [makes it] hard to believe.”

Keys says that OPD has failed “for decades in with dealing with situations like this … I cannot understand why they couldn’t subdue that man without using a kill shot. There are many other ways.”

The local NBC news affiliate reported that “witnesses in the area said the man kept crying that officers shot him” with a taser.

Keys, who grew up in Oakland, said the problem is bigger than crisis intervention. He said the OPD doesn’t have the trust or the support of the community, and people of color are not going to be rushing to turn themselves in, in order to become the next Oscar Grant.

“I grew up in Oakland as an African American … and the police have never dealt well” with Black and Brown people. “The prevailing attitude is that white officers kill” people of color. “That’s the mindset: People are afraid of the police in Oakland.”

Keys was disappointed in Mayor Dellums’ actions around both the killing of Oscar Grant as well as his willingness to jump on the bandwagon with the police department, when he should be more of a “joiner,” bringing people together rather than immediately siding with the police.

Mayor Ron Dellums released a statement on Saturday afternoon – a “joint news release” on the shooting, on behalf of the Oakland Police Department, the Mayor’s Office and BART officials – urging calm but voicing little concern about the pattern of violence and over-reaction shown by BART and Oakland police.

“Anytime there is a loss of life, it is a matter of great concern and sadness for us all,” Dellums said in his written statement. “It is extremely important that we as a community continue to work together in order to provide a safe and secure environment. Therefore, a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding this death has begun.”

BART also announced a “thorough” investigation into the shooting. “The loss of life under any circumstance is truly an unfortunate and regrettable event,” wrote BART Vice President Bob Franklin and board member Carole Ward Allen in the joint statement.

“The BART Police Department is cooperating fully with the Oakland Police Department who has the lead in the investigation into today’s officer involved shooting. We have immediately launched a separate but parallel administrative investigation as well to ensure this incident is thoroughly investigated in a transparent manner.

There is “something wrong at the core,” says Irizarry. It’s about the police abuse of power, and their decision, all too often, to use force over reason.

The police in Oakland and the BART Police “should be the last to be called,” she said. “Why isn’t the mayor talking about crisis intervention teams, instead of sending cops out who have no training in intervention with distraught people, who are not trained in crisis de-escalation … Calling the police to do a non-violent intervention with a troubled person is like calling the mortician to deliver a baby.”

“People are very scared,” local resident Juanna Nieva told one reporter. “I am really worried for kids. People are living in fear in Oakland.”

Now the question for many people of color in Oakland is: Are they more fearful of the criminals or of the cops who are supposed to protect them?

DENNIS BERNSTEIN is an investigative journalist who hosts Flashpoints, heard on KPFA 94.1 FM weekdays at 5 p.m. and archived at www.flashpoints.net and www.kpfa.org. He can be reached at dbernstein@igc.org.

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail