I-Team investigation: Hayward family blames police for man's death, releases video

Dan Noyes Image
Monday, May 16, 2016
I-TEAM investigation: Hayward family blames police for man's death
A family blames Hayward police for a tragedy after they said officers used excessive force on James Greer.

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area family blames Hayward police for a tragedy. They said officers used excessive force on James Greer, even after he told them he suffered from medical problems. It's an I-team investigation that you'll only see on ABC7 News.

It began as a traffic stop, but the situation quickly escalated. What makes this case unique is that the incident was captured by four police body cameras. The I-team has obtained video from all of them. And again - we warn you that some of this is difficult to watch.

James Greer is remembered by his family members. "He was kind of the glue that always kept everyone together," Deana Greer said.

Even after their divorce, James and Deana and the kids stayed close.

In May of 2014, police pulled over James for driving erratically on Mission Boulevard in Hayward.

The police report says Greer "got out of his vehicle but would not participate in a field sobriety test." But, it appears from the police body camera video obtained by the I-team, Greer "does" cooperate with officers, at least in the initial minutes.

Officer: "Got any weapons on you at all?"

Greer: "Not at all."

Officer: "You're going to follow with your eyes only, not your head."

Greer: "Okay."

Fulvio Cajina is the Greer family attorney. "I think that the officer that first engages him did a great job. I look at video and I see a professional officer," he said.

At one point, Greer explains he has a stomach hernia and a knee injury.

Officer: "I want you to put your feet together just like this."

Greer: "Okay."

Only one police camera is rolling, and it's unclear how many officers are present. At some point, many units respond, including BART police.

"I think the situation escalates when Mr. Greer is spooked by the strong police presence, and takes a couple of steps back," Cajina said.

Officer: "Don't be walkin' away "

Greer: "Wait, wait, wait, wait, what are you guys doing to me?"

Police attempt to handcuff Greer, who weighs 380 pounds. His arms don't seem to reach the cuffs.

Greer: "Hey, hey, hey, hey! You're breaking my arm."

"When he was on the ground I hear him screaming in agonizing pain," Deana said.

Multiple officers get on top of Greer.

Officer: "Mr. Greer, you need to stop resisting or you're going to be tazed."

Police report tazing Greer three times. Then, they applied a restraint device called "The Wrap" designed to safely immobilize a suspect.

About 6.5 minutes after putting him on the ground, the officers turn Greer over.

Various officers: "He's unconscious. You alright dude? He's unconscious."

"You see that his lips look blue and discolored. This is someone in urgent medical distress," Cajina said.

The police report said "emergency medical personnel immediately intervened." But after studying the video from four police body cams, Cajina said that's not what happened.

"Nearly 7 minutes went by before anyone tried CPR on Mr. Greer. There's no sense of urgency. In fact, what they're doing is they're joking around," Cajina said.

About one hour after he was pulled over, Greer was pronounced dead at Saint Rose hospital.

A toxicology report showed PCP in his system. The examiner concluded he died from exerting himself while under the influence of PCP.

The makers of The Wrap wouldn't comment on this case specifically, but their guidelines say once a suspect's legs are immobilized, officers should stop pressing on the suspects back. That didn't happen in this case.

Craig Zamolo: "What we train is the longer we keep person on stomach, the greater the risk to everybody involved."

The Hayward city attorney declined to comment for this report, citing the on-going investigation, but did say in court documents, "police used reasonable force."

"We believe police are there to protect us and to see somebody who we trust do such a thing. I don't think I will ever accept that," Deana said.

The Alameda County district attorney never investigated James' death. In the past, the county's policy has been to only investigate deaths in which police fired their weapons. But DA Nancy O'Malley told ABC7 News she has met with chiefs of police and the sheriff to change that policy. In the future, Alameda County will investigate "the critical incidents that result in a death."

Click here for more investigate stories and videos by Dan Noyes and the I-Team.