Family grieves again over suspicious death

January 25, 2009 3:14:33 PM PST
The FBI is investigating the Oakland Police Department for the possible cover-up of one man's suspicious death in 2000.

He died from injuries sustained while in police custody.

His family says they are really dealing with a mixture of emotions right now including pain from old memories and some joy.

"We miss him a lot," said Jerry Amaro's uncle Victor Montoya.

He has been gone for almost nine years. But, relatives of Jerry Amaro are now reliving the pain of his death and confronting the details around it once again.

They say it has all resurfaced because some Oakland police officers have come forward and told investigators what really happened the night Amaro was arrested.

"It's really a godsend. You don't usually see police officers testify against another police officer," said Montoya.

The FBI is now investigating whether Captain Edward Poulson kicked Amaro and broke his ribs.

Police arrested Amaro for trying to buy crack cocaine from an undercover officer. Relatives say he complained that police had beaten him, but that no one believed him. He died a month later of pneumonia caused by fractured ribs.

"I just don't want everyone to think my brother was just a statistic, you know? Because it's easy to be put in that category if you're from Oakland," Amaro's sister Stephanie told ABC7.

Oakland Police placed Captain Poulson on paid administrative leave Thursday when the FBI investigation was launched. The police chief says he cannot comment on the investigation but did issue a statement saying, "The men and women who put on the uniform and represent the city are held to high standards of ethical conduct and performance. Please do not allow recent allegations of misconduct to overshadow the successful policing efforts achieved by Oakland Police Department personnel on a daily basis."

Amaro's relatives have asked attorney John Burris to consider filing a lawsuit on their behalf.

"They want the investigations taking place to result in some kind of criminal prosecution," Burris said.

"At the end of the day we're still all human. And, no one's rights should be violated at any time," said Stephanie.

The family's attorney will be looking into whether civil rights were violated and if there is reason to file a lawsuit.

Representatives from the mayor's office and the police department all say they are cooperating with the FBI on the investigation.