OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The city of Oakland has tentatively agreed to pay $1.4 million to the family of a homeless man with mental health issues who was fatally shot by Oakland police officers two years ago.
The City Council approved the tentative agreement in closed session last week but won’t have a final vote on it until a public council meeting in the next week or two, City Councilman Noel Gallo said Tuesday.
Oakland attorney John Burris filed a wrongful death officer last year on behalf of the family of 32-year-old Joshua Pawlik, who was shot multiple times in the 900 block of 40th Street at about 7 p.m. on March 11, 2018.
Burris said on Tuesday that he believes the shooting was “particularly egregious” because he doesn’t believe that Pawlik pointed a gun at officers or threatened them in any way.
Pawlik had been sleeping on the ground and when officers, who were behind a large military vehicle, wakened Pawlik he sat up partway but officers opened fire on him before he had a chance to respond, Burris said.
Burris said Pawlik had a gun on his lap but he doesn’t think he ever grabbed it and pointed it at the officers.
Harry Stern, an attorney for officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka, Josef Phillips and Francisco Negrete, wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday but said in a recent phone interview that they shot Pawlik because he had the gun in his hands and was pointing it at them.
“He made a movement in the direction of the officers,” Stern alleged.
Gallo said the City Council tentatively agreed to approve the settlement because the City Attorney’s Office said if the case went to trial it could cost the city at least $5 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.
A spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the tentative settlement.
Burris said Pawlik grew up in Virginia but left home as a teenager and lived in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco before moving to Oakland a short time before the shooting.
He said Pawlik had a history of mental health problems but didn’t have a history of violence.
Burris said he’s pleased that the shooting has prompted the Oakland Police Department to change its training for situations when officers deal with suspects who are asleep and have guns with them to make sure that they have time to surrender before officers open fire.
The Oakland Police Commission voted last year to fire Berger, Hraiz, Tanaka, Phillips and Negrete but the officers are challenging that ruling and no final decision on their fate has been made.
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