Family Of Slain Homeless Man Sues Oakland Police

Carrie Hodousek
February 06, 2019 - 5:14 pm

OAKLAND (KCBS Radio) -- The family of a homeless man shot to death by Oakland police in March has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department.

Civil rights attorney John Burris filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kelly Pawlik, the mother of 32-year-old Joshua Pawlik. The homeless man was killed by Oakland police after they received a call of an unconscious person with a gun between two houses in West Oakland.

The incident was captured on officers’ body cameras, reportedly showing that they attempted to wake Pawlik before firing several gunshots. Pawlik was found holding a gun when he was awoken by police.

The lawsuit accuses police of firing at Pawlik while he was half-asleep.

“The outrageous component of this to me is that you awaken a person from sleep and they make a human movement, like ‘Where am I?’ looking around in response to the noise and they’re shot, they’re killed,” Burris said. “It’s unconscionable to me.”  

Burris said he filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family because the responding Oakland officers on March 11 “anticipated beyond a factual basis and they killed him, basically claiming their lives were in danger. There’s no objective evidence to support that.”

Police say Pawlik’s actions posed an immediate threat to officers, but Burris argues that body camera videos show Pawlik’s gun stayed right beside him the entire time.

“It’s not like he was running around threatening everybody. He never pointed anything at the officers,” Burris said, thumping his fist on his desk. “He never threatened them. He never said anything.”

Burris couldn’t say if Pawlik was prone to violence, but did say he had a history of mental illness. 

Pawlik’s family is now calling for the four police officers involved to be criminally prosecuted for murder.


Written by Brian Krans.