Oakland police defend shooting unarmed man

November 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
People in an Oakland neighborhood are outraged about the shooting of an unarmed man by police. Oakland officers are defending their actions in the death of 37-year-old Derrick Jones, shot on Trask Street and Seminary Avenue. It all started with a call for help that someone was trying to kill a woman.

Police are defending their actions and say Jones was attempting to beat up his ex-girlfriend, but authorities are releasing contradictory information on this case. At a news conference at OPD headquarters Tuesday afternoon, a deputy chief refused to answer reporters' questions as to whether Jones was armed when police shot him. But that silence came after a spokesman for OPD had already confirmed for police that Jones did not have a gun when police fired.

"Cold blood... cold blood murder, that's what I think happened," said Lerrell Windon.

Witnesses say they heard as many as eight shots. Some even say Jones was on the ground when two Oakland police officers fired at him.

"I heard a lot of shots, but when he was on the ground, I heard a couple more shots when they were telling him to put his hands out, they kept shooting," said Windon.

Jones owned the Kwik Cuts barbershop on Bancroft Avenue. He was a husband and a father to a one-year-old daughter. Those who knew him can't understand how it is that he's now dead. On Tuesday evening, a crowd of customers paid their respects to the barber shop owner.

"It's such a generic story, it's a story that they give when anyone is murdered by police," says Jones' sister, Tonya Saheli.

Saheli says the ex-girlfriend called police after pulling a knife on Jones and harassing him for several hours earlier on Monday.

"She was harassing him, trespassing on his property, yet he did not call the police because he knew or he was afraid that something like this would happen. And that is exactly what happened," said Saheli.

Saheli claims the gun charge was dropped.

"He had a gun because he was trying to protect himself at his place of business, something that the police officers never had any interest in doing," said Saheli.

Jones and his five siblings were raised by his stay-at-home mom and their father who is a retired city sewer department employee. Saheli recently graduated from law school and she says this could be her first civil case.

"You're saying a police officer who had been trained and educated and has a family to go home to, cannot control their gun? I mean, I'm not that educated, but I'm not stupid," said Jones' friend, Johnny Williams.

The community is outraged, but police tell a different story. Officers responded to a domestic violence call around 9:30 p.m. on Monday. They say Jones was trying to kill a woman whom family members say was a former girlfriend.

Police say they approached Jones and he immediately ran. They tried to Tase him, but they missed. They caught Jones on Trask Street and fired.

"During the foot chase the suspect was seen grabbing towards his waistband. This occurred several times; this is a move obviously consistent with someone reaching for a weapon, possibly arming himself," said Oakland Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Israel.

But Jones wasn't armed. Police say he had a metal object on him. They wouldn't say what it was during Tuesday afternoon's press conference, but sources say it was not a weapon.

What police did tell reporters was that Jones was on parole for gun possession. Dozens of family members showed up in the lobby of police headquarters to denounce what they're now calling the killing of an innocent man.

"He wouldn't do anything like that. I mean, that's just like outrageous for somebody to kill him like that, six times in the back," said Jones' cousin, Charles Jones.

"We haven't even gotten over Oscar Grant and now, here we go again," said Jones' uncle, Sammy Jones.

Police won't say how many times Jones was shot, only that it was more than once. He was not shot in the back. Jones has prior arrests for drugs, domestic violence and resisting arrest. This is the third fatal officer-involved shooting for OPD this year and, as a standard in all officer-involved shootings, it is under investigation by the district attorney's office.

Police did not specify the race of the officers, but they did say they were not white and each one had at least two years of experience.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums released a statement saying, "Any time a human life is lost, the surviving family suffers the grief of that loss, so I offer my sympathies to the family of the man who lost his life last night. My office has been in close contact with Chief Batts and leadership of the Oakland Police Department, and we support their thorough and timely investigation into the circumstances which led to this unfortunate outcome. In addition, I am pleased that the Alameda County District Attorney is conducting its own investigation into this case, and we will closely monitor the progress moving forward."


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