OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The new district attorney for California’s Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area said Tuesday that a new Public Accountability Unit will re-investigate eight police shootings and custody deaths, including two killings of unarmed men by the same Oakland police officer.
The announcement by Pamela Price to the Bay Area News Group could open the door to the filing of criminal charges involving officers after the previous DA declined to charge them.
The review will include two 15-year-old shootings by Oakland Officer Hector Jimenez. In July 2008, Jimenez killed 27-year-old Mack “Jody” Woodfox, who was shot in the back while running away from a traffic stop.
Seven months earlier, Jimenez and another officer shot and killed Andrew Moppin-Buckskin, 20, who also ran away after a traffic stop.
In both cases, Jimenez told investigators that he believed the suspects were reaching for guns in their waistbands.
Former District Attorney Nancy O’Malley reviewed both cases and found the officers involved couldn’t be charged with criminal wrongdoing.
Jiminez was fired in 2009 for violating Oakland police use-of-force policies but he was reinstated after an arbitrator found the shooting was lawful, said Michael Rains, the attorney whose firm represented Jimenez during the arbitration process.
Rains told the San Francisco Chronicle he was skeptical that the re-examination of the Woodfox case would find “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that the shooting wasn’t justified.
The decision to re-examine both killings was “ridiculous,” Sgt. Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers association, told the paper.
“These cases have been investigated from every angle inside and out by multiple agencies, both criminally and administratively, and the officers have been cleared,” Donelan said. “For the last decade and a half, this officer has continued to work on the job protecting the residents of Oakland valiantly.”
The former district attorney also declined to charge Alameda officers involved in the April 2021 custody death of Mario Gonzalez. The Oakland resident died after the officers tried to arrest him on suspicion of shoplifting at a park and pinned him to the ground for several minutes.
The county coroner ruled his death a homicide, concluding that Gonzalez had a heart attack caused by methamphetamine use and from being restrained by officers.
An investigation commissioned by the city last year found the officers didn’t violate Police Department policy.
The DA’s Public Accountability Unit will review that death, the 2021 death of Vinetta Martin in Santa Rita Jail, which was classified as a suicide, and the fatal shootings of Cody Chavez by Pleasanton police in 2022; Caleb Smith by Hayward officers in 2021; Joshua Gloria by Fremont officers in 2021 and Agustin Gonsalez by Hayward police in 2019.
Price was elected as district attorney in November on a reform platform. At a Sunday rally to protest the death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers, Price told the crowd: “I refuse to be complicit in murder, in racialized justice, in a failed system that does not respond to people suffering with mental health crises.”