OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06: An Oakland Police patrol car sits in front of the Oakland Police headquarters on December 6, 2012 in Oakland, California. Oakland City officials have come to an agreement to forfeit broad power over the Oakland Police Department

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Federal Official Slams Oakland Police For Investigation Into Fatal Shooting

March 07, 2019 - 1:23 pm

The federal monitor overseeing Oakland's historically troubled police department has come out to criticize the multiple investigations into the 2018 fatal shooting of Joshua Pawlik, which all cleared cops of wrongdoing. 

On March 11, 2018, Pawlik was unconscious on a piece of grass between two North Oakland houses. The 31-year-old Oakland man with mental health issues had a gun in his hand.

Police were called, responding with numerous officers and a Bearcat armored vehicle. With 40 minutes to plan how to handle the situation, Oakland police shouted commands to wake Pawlik. Within moments of waking, Pawlik was shot multiple times by officers with rifles. Pawlick died there and the encounter was captured by police cameras.

The four officers who fired claimed that they saw Pawlik raise his hand, pointing a gun in their direction. 

Oakland police’s criminal and internal affairs investigations reviewed the case. After it was over, Chief Anne Kirkpatrick found the "lethal force used was ‘within law and policy’” because there was “an immediate threat.'”

The Executive Force Review Board also found that the use of force was "reasonable," and District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's found that "the evidence does not support criminal charges being filed" against the officers involved.

But Robert Warshaw, the Oakland Police Department’s federally mandated independent monitor recently voice his disapproval. Not only did he challenge the investigators' findings, but he faulted the way the reviews were conducted and what evidence was considered. 

In a four-page report late last month, Warshaw questioned Oakland Police’s investigation, including not referencing available video of the events when questioning the involved officers, nor did the criminal or internal investigation check contradicting officer statements against the video.

Instead, Warshaw wrote, “the questioning in both investigations was deficient, non-invasive, and replete with leading questions that served as attempts to support the justification of the officers’ actions.”

As to Chief Kirkpatrick’s assessment of the circumstances in which Pawlik was killed, Warshaw described them as “disappointing and myopic.”

Warshaw wrote that the video shows Pawlik displaying actions of anyone waking and attempting to orient themselves. “He was a live human being — and any reasonable officer should not have expected him to remain perfectly still,” Warshaw wrote.

Warshaw concluded “there was no information that Mr. Pawlik was an immediate threat to anyone or had harmed anyone. Nor were there any citizens in immediate danger.”

Overall, Warshaw rejected Chief Kirkpatrick’s conclusion of the investigation and sustained several violations against Sgt. Francisco Negrete and officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka and others, ranging from violating use of force standards to failure to supervise.  

Following Warshaw’s investigation, the federal judge overseeing the Oakland Police Department, U.S. District Judge William Orrick, appointed an outside investigator to re-examine the shooting.

Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Pawlik’s mother.

Written by Brian Krans.