OAKLAND -- In a sudden reversal, police said Tuesday they were wrong to publicly rule out the possibility that Mayor Jean Quan was on her cellphone at the time of her June car crash.
It turned out that investigators were unable to determine if Quan was using her phone, just as they were unable to determine which driver was at fault for the crash.
Police said a department spokesman late Friday issued a statement that "ruled out" the use of a cellphone by either driver because he mistakenly referenced a report provided by the officer who responded to the crash rather than the investigators' report.
"We're accepting (this mistake); we're owning it," police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. "We all understand and agree that when you go into the report, the investigator determines that he was unable to determine if the cellphone was used."
Officer Frank Bonifacio sent out the incorrect statement Friday.
The June 8 crash at the intersection of 26th and Market streets generated a lot of negative attention for the mayor because it came less than a week after television reports showing her using her cellphone while driving.
While police said Friday that Quan wasn't on the phone, the report they released didn't back up the claim. Police never provided an estimated time of the accident to show that it didn't occur when Quan was using her phone.
Police acknowledged the mistake Tuesday, one day after attorney Charles Kelly, who is representing the other driver, provided this newspaper with a previously unreleased follow-up investigation report.
That 12-page, unredacted report includes a statement from Officer Glenn Hara, who interviewed the mayor. Hara wrote that he was "unable to determine if the phone was in use or not at the time of the collision." The statement was not in the report released by police late Friday.
"The police should not have said it was completely conclusive that she was not on the phone," Kelly said before police acknowledged the error. "Not when you have one officer who reviewed the records and interviewed Mayor Quan saying he couldn't rule it in or out."
The mayor's spokesman, Sean Maher, said Tuesday that Quan remained "adamant that she was not on the phone at the time of the crash."
The police report released Friday failed to demonstrate whether or not the accident occurred during a time at which Quan was using her phone.
The other driver, Lakisha Lovely, told police in writing the accident occurred at approximately 5:32 p.m. Her stepson, who was in the car with her, told police 5:30 p.m.
Phone records show Quan made calls at 5:29 p.m. and 5:31 p.m. She originally said the accident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. But she crossed out that time in her written statement and changed it to 5:25 p.m. -- three minutes after she used her phone to access the Internet.
The follow-up report obtained by this newspaper doesn't definitively address cellphone use, but it does illustrate difficulties investigators faced with witnesses who either weren't cooperative or contradicted themselves.
Margarett Randel told this newspaper the evening of the accident that Quan "passed right through the red light," but she appeared to have the cars mixed up, the investigation found. Randel told investigators the vehicle traveling northbound on Market Street had a green light, but it was Quan who was driving that direction.
Meanwhile, Shawn Vasquez, a security guard who told reporters Quan "absolutely was on the yellow light" and was not using her cellphone as she entered the intersection, told police he actually had not seen the crash occur. He "looked up immediately after the collision," investigators wrote.
Quan told investigators she used her city phone to call her husband at 5:16 p.m. upon leaving a meeting and again at 5:29 p.m. to let him know about the accident. As for the 5:22 p.m. Internet search, Quan, who was on her way to another meeting, told investigators she had pulled over to figure out where she was going and then continued driving.
Quan also provided the investigator records from a personal cellphone, the report shows. There was no activity on that phone.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.