OAKLAND (KCBS) — The Oakland police officer who was fired three years ago for firing a tear gas canister into a crowd at an Occupy Oakland protest will return to work.
Arbitrator David Stiteler overturned the police department’s termination of Officer Robert Roche on Wednesday and ordered him reinstated with back pay.
The crowd, hit by that tear gas on Oct. 15, 2011, was attempting to aid Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who had been injured by a beanbag fired by someone else. The incident drew international attention and resulted in heavy public criticism of the police that led to further protests.
Roche’s attorney said that Stiteler determined that Roche was following orders from his commanding officers.
Olsen’s attorney Rachel Lederman told the San Francisco Chronicle that she was “just sickened” by the decision and called Roche a “three-time killer” whose actions at the protest were “outrageous.”
Roche, who was a member of the SWAT team and served as a firearms instructor, had been involved in three fatal shootings in the city but was cleared of wrongdoing of each incident.
Sgt. Barry Donelan, who is president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, told the Contra Costa Times that Roche “is phenomenal police officer, and he was scapegoated like all the other officers from the Occupy experience.”
In March, the city agreed to pay $4.5 million to Olsen to settle a federal lawsuit he filed over the incident.