Officer involved shooting in Oakland

August 22, 2008 12:02:29 PM PDT
A routine traffic stop in Oakland turned into a life-threatening situation for a police officer, and it all ended in gunfire. When it was over, one man was dead. It happened near 14th and Jefferson Streets.

This is the ninth time an Oakland cop has fired his gun in a situation this year. The department says it averages about 12 a year, and the incidents are running higher for this time of the year so far.

Many in the community are upset, questioning if all these police shootings are justified in response, a protest and march has been organized for Saturday in Berkeley. Organizers are calling residents from both Berkeley and Oakland to come demand that the police be accountable for their actions.

In this case, police say an officer's life was threatened.

"That's the first time I've ever seen somebody shot, and that was my first experience. I was expecting just a car crash," said Aaron Elwood, witness.

But Aaron Elwood says he witnessed much more than a crash. He saw an Oakland police officer shoot the driver of a smashed-up car on Jefferson and 14th Streets.

The shooting stemmed from a traffic stop around 2:40 in the morning that dramatically turned worse when the officer smelled marijuana and tried arresting the driver.

"In the process of trying to handcuff the driver there was a fight. The officer was actually pulled into the vehicle during this scuffle. The driver of the vehicle actually started the vehicle and took off with the officer inside the vehicle," said Officer Jeff Thomason, Oakland police department.

The driver crashed his car into a couple other ones parked on Jefferson Street. It all ended within a few blocks when a veteran officer from a backup unit fired multiple shots at the suspect. A passenger and the other officer in the car were not hit. The driver died of his injuries.

"The cop didn't have to shoot the guy so many times, the second shot he was still moving, the third shot he's gone," said Elwood.

"If an officer feels that his life or another person's life or another officer's life is in danger, he has the right to use deadly force," said Thomason.

Police did find a weapon and drugs in the car, and arrested the passenger. This is the 9th shooting this year by a police officer. The department has received a lot of community uproar, questioning the validity of some of these police shootings.

The city is facing a $10 million dollar civil lawsuit from the family of 27-year-old Jody Woodfox. He was killed in an officer shooting July 25th, when he was pulled over for suspected drunk driving.

This morning I spoke by phone with prominent Oakland attorney John Burris, he's representing Woodfox's family and insists that July shooting is a classic case of an unjustified police killing of an unarmed man.

The officer involved in that shooting remains on administrative leave. The officer who fired in Friday's incident is also on leave, until the investigation is complete.


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