OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A federal judge who’s presiding over a long-running Oakland police misconduct case has appointed an outside investigator to re-examine the fatal shooting of a homeless man with mental health issues who was fatally shot by four Oakland police officers last year.
The recent order by U.S. District Judge William Orrick indicates that there are differences of opinion between the Oakland Police Department and court-appointed monitor Robert Warshaw as to whether police officers involved in the shooting violated department policies or the law and whether any of them should face discipline.
In his brief order, Orrick said Warshaw recently briefed him about the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Joshua Pawlik in the 900 block of 40th Street at about 7 p.m. on March 11, 2018, and asked for the assistance of counsel in the matter.
However, Orrick said that in approving the appointment of San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Edward Swanson, who has investigated two other Oakland police controversies, he “expresses no opinions” on the Pawlik case.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of Joshua Pawlik’s mother, Kelly Pawlik, last month alleging that officers had no justification for shooting Joshua Pawlik multiple times because he didn’t point a gun at them or threaten them in any way.
Burris said officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka and Francisco Negrete never had a gun pointed at them and their lives weren’t in danger.
Burris said the fatal shooting of Pawlik “is unconscionable to me.”
Oakland police released information after the shooting saying that a large number of officers were dispatched to the 900 block of 40th Street after they received reports of an armed, unconscious man lying between two houses.
Police said the officers asked Pawlik to put his gun down but he didn’t comply and they opened fire because they decided he posed an immediate threat with the risk of death or serious bodily harm.
Burris said the large number of officers who responded to reports of an unconscious man initially were patient with Pawlik but eventually overreacted when he made small movements as he was waking up.
Burris said that although Pawlik had a handgun near him and may have slept on top of it he never grabbed it or pointed it when the officers responded to the scene.
Warshaw has been appointed by the court to enforce the Oakland Police Department’s compliance with reforms that were mandated by the settlement back in 2003 of a police misconduct case. The department still hasn’t completed all of its required reforms.
In 2017, Swanson and another attorney examined how a teenage girl was treated by Oakland police after evidence emerged that multiple officers had sexually exploited her.
Swanson’s report found that the department’s initial investigation into the matter was “seriously deficient.”
In 2015, Swanson wrote another report that concluded that the reason Oakland police officers who are fired for misconduct are reinstated at arbitration hearings 75 percent of the time is that department officials and the city attorney’s office do a poor job of handling the cases.
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