Alameda County DA to reopen investigations into several fatal police shootings, in-custody deaths

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Alameda Co. DA to reopen investigations into fatal police shootings
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday the reopening of investigations into several police shootings and in-custody deaths.

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday the reopening of investigations into several police shootings and in-custody deaths as part of the creation of a new Public Accountability Unit (PAU).

The PAU will be tasked with holding law enforcement and public officials accountable for misconduct, prosecutors said.

In their announcement, the county's District Attorney's Office wrote that the PAU intends to reopen the cases of eight deaths involving law enforcement and has asked local police chiefs and Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez to return evidence in the cases.

The formation of the PAU follows District Attorney Pamela Price's promises during her campaign that led to her being elected in November.

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The family of Mario Gonzalez, who died in custody of Alameda police in April 2021, are demanding officers face charges following the autopsy ruling.

"I promised accountability. This unit and its work are the start of the reckoning Alameda County has asked for holding people accountable for their misconduct," Price said in the announcement.

The following cases will be reviewed by the PAU:

Cody Chavez involving Pleasanton police in 2022, Caleb Smith involving Hayward police in 2021, Joshua Gloria involving Fremont police in 2021, Agustin Gonsalez involving Hayward police in 2019, Mario Gonzalez involving Alameda police in 2021, Vinetta Martin involving county sheriff's deputies at Santa Rita Jail in 2021, Mack Jody Woodfox involving Oakland police in 2008 and Andrew Moppin-Buckskin involving Oakland police in 2007.

We spoke with Michael Rains, a criminal defense attorney who has represented police officers accused of misconduct.

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Rains believes the DA's decision is to reopen previously investigated cases is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

"Their investigations were thorough. They were objective. They were comprehensive. They considered all the evidence: forensic, video, statements, everything," he said.

Rains says he worries that public safety will suffer as a result of Price's platform and thinks that her decision will also cause tension with local police departments.

"The tact taken by Ms. Price is going to create open warfare between her office and law enforcement management throughout the county," Rains said.

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But not everyone agrees with that.

Cat Brooks runs the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project. She says Price is following through on promises made during her campaign to hold police accountable.

"I don't know how anybody can suggest to me that there's not a problem with police violence and police getting away with that violence," Brooks said.

Brooks believes Price is a key ally in her group's mission of reimagining policing and public safety, but acknowledges that the road ahead is anything but certain.

"This is just one step. There's no promises here, and we know that we can't just leave it in the hands of Pamela Price," she said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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