A story about a federal civil rights trial over an officer-involved shooting from 2010 incorrectly quoted a recorded interview of Oakland police officer Omar Diaz-Quiroz. When asked why he didn't deploy his Taser stun gun against Derrick Jones, the officer responded: "Because I wanted to be lethal in case something happened." He did not say, "I wanted to get lethal."
OAKLAND -- More than two years after a pair of Oakland police officers shot and killed an unarmed man who ran from them, setting off raucous protests across the city, testimony began Wednesday in a rare federal trial spurred by the victim's widow.
Derrick Jones, 37, an East Oakland barber, was shot and killed in November 2010 when police tried to question him after a woman said he tried to strangle her. Officers Eriberto Perez-Angeles and Omar Daza-Quiroz have said they thought Jones was reaching for a gun when they fired nine shots at him, hitting him six times. Police later found he had no weapon but was carrying a small scale, which they said was used to weigh marijuana, and a video cassette box was stuffed up the sleeve of his jacket.
Oakland police "shoot first and justify it later," lawyer Ayanna Jenkins-Toney, who represents Jones' widow, said Wednesday outside U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers' courtroom. She said evidence will show that Jones didn't pose a threat to the officers that entitled them to gun him down.
Police initially treated the complaint against Jones as a misdemeanor domestic violence case. Three police officers testified Wednesday that the woman, described as Jones' girlfriend, didn't appear to have any visible injuries as she told officers that Jones attacked her after she went to his barber shop and found him with another woman.
But after Jones was killed and no weapon was found on him, police began to describe the attack on the woman "as an attempted murder" in order to paint Jones as violent and dangerous to justify shooting him, Jenkins-Toney said.
Jones's widow, Lanell Jones, who is seeking unspecified damages in her husband's death, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and two police officers in 2011. The city settled a similar suit brought by Jones' parents for $225,000.
The city's attorney, William Simmons, did not make an opening statement to the jury of five women and three men. He has strongly defended Perez-Angeles and Daza-Quiroz in legal documents. The officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in Jones' death after an investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
Jenkins-Toney said Jones' death illustrates the Oakland Police Department's long-term problems with its officers using force -- an issue at the core of a decade of monitoring by another federal judge, Thelton Henderson, who oversees the settlement in the infamous police scandal known as The Riders.
Henderson recently appointed a compliance director to demand reforms in the department and has repeatedly said the department could wind up in federal receivership.
But Jenkins-Toney failed in attempts to convince Gonzalez Rogers that the department's problems -- or even other violent incidents involving Perez-Angeles and Daza-Quiroz -- are relevant in Jones' death.
"I am not going to retry the Riders case," the judge said during a hearing last week, where she refused to allow more than 70 use-of-force complaints filed against Daza-Quiroz and an unspecified number against Perez-Angeles to be used in the trial.
On Wednesday morning, two police officers who were among the first to arrive at the shooting scene each testified that Jones' hands were empty when the officers arrived and found him sprawled over a pile of garbage, struggling to breathe, blood pouring from wounds in his chest and stomach. Several jurors looked away quickly as photos of Jones' bloody torso were shown on a large television screen.
One of the officers, Mega Lee, said she was ordered to handcuff an unidentified witness to the shooting and drive that person to police headquarters for questioning.
"You handcuffed a witness?" Jenkins-Toney asked sharply. "Correct," Lee answered in a barely audible voice.
Outside of court, Jenkins-Toney said the handcuffed witness was a sign of how desperate police were to intimidate witnesses and justify the shooting.
Daza-Quiroz testified briefly Wednesday, telling jurors that police can shoot people only when they or others are directly threatened with death or serious injury. He was not questioned about firing his weapon but will take the stand again Thursday morning.
He said that Jones "was trying to run away" as the officers chased him to a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire at the end of Trask Street and that Perez-Angeles had shot Jones with a Taser stun-gun but that it had no effect.
"He withstood 50,000 volts," Daza-Quiroz said.