OAKLAND — Preliminary autopsy results on an unarmed man shot and killed by Oakland police Friday revealed he had been shot in the back, police said Monday.
Lt. Ersie Joyner, in charge of the Oakland Police Department's homicide section, said it appeared that Mack "Jody" Woodfox, 27, shot and killed by Officer Hector Jimenez after an attempted traffic stop, "took rounds to the rear of his torso." Joyner said the coroner's full report was pending toxicology results, and he could not immediately offer more details.
The autopsy came on the heels of Oakland attorney John Burris' call Sunday for criminal charges, including homicide, to be filed against Jimenez. This was the second fatal police shooting involving Jimenez. The officer, who graduated from the police academy in February 2007, was involved in a Dec. 31, 2007, shooting in which Andrew Moppin, 20, was killed. Moppin, who was yelling and swearing at officers, also was unarmed. Jimenez and another officer both fired shots after Moppin made a quick move toward his waistband.
Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said the Moppin shooting has been fully investigated and found to be within department policy, and that the Alameda County District Attorney's office, which investigates police-involved shootings, found no criminal negligence.
Jordan acknowledged that some circumstances of the Woodfox shooting may raise questions but said all officer-involved shootings are taken
"All of them do, and all are thoroughly investigated," he said.
The District Attorney's office, OPD's internal affairs section and its homicide section are each reviewing the Woodfox shooting, officials said.
Woodfox led police on a high-speed chase that started about 3:50 a.m. on Fruitvale Avenue and lasted about a mile, eventually ending at Fruitvale and East 17th Street.
Police said Jimenez and another officer saw Woodfox driving a 1993 Buick Regal in a manner suggesting "a dangerous DUI" and tried to pull him over, Joyner said.
When Woodfox did stop his car, he immediately jumped out and tried to flee, making "a furtive movement" that suggested he was reaching for a weapon at his waistband, Joyner said.
The shooting occurred at a range of less than 25 feet, Joyner said. Both Jimenez, who was the passenger in the police cruiser that night, and a second officer, who was driving, have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard, pending investigations into the shooting.
That a suspect is trying to flee police does not automatically mean he poses no immediate threat, Joyner said, who added that the police department has a thorough policy on use of force.
Jordan, Joyner and Sgt. Roland Holmgren, a department spokesman, said the department will try to be as transparent as possible in responding to the shooting but warned that some information will be kept confidential to protect the investigation.
On Monday, Burris, who is representing Woodfox's family, praised police for "coming forward to confirm information" he says he gathered from witnesses to the shooting.
Burris said it is important "police are honest about mistakes when they're made. Without that, there can be no trust."
He said that since he started investigating police shootings in Oakland in 1979, he cannot remember a case in which the department found a police shooting to be in violation of policy.
"Traditionally, (the investigations have) been rubber stamps," Burris said. "The question is whether that will be the case this time. This is an opportunity for the department to build confidence in the community."
Attorney Harry Stern, whose law firm represents the Oakland Police Officers Association, said Woodfox had a criminal record and had previously gone on trial for homicide in San Francisco, and was part of a group recently investigated in connection with the violent Acorn drug gang.
Still, Joyner said Monday there is no reason to believe Jimenez recognized Woodfox or had any previous awareness of him.
In 2007, Oakland police were involved in 12 shootings, of which five were fatal, Holmgren said. So far this year, five of seven police-involved shootings have been fatal.
Holmgren said police only fire a gun in response to an immediate need to stop danger. In that situation, they are trained to aim at the center body mass to ensure a hit, he said.
"Shooting guns out of people's hands, stuff like that, it only happens on TV," Holmgren said. "I'd like to see them try it on a shooting range. It's hard."
Jordan said that of about 300 patrol units on the police force, more than half of the officers have less than three years experience.
He said that "in an ideal world," young officers would always be paired with more experienced veterans, but currently that isn't possible.
The relative youth of OPD's police force is partially the result of an "accelerated hiring process," but the increased rate hasn't come with any sacrifices to hiring standards, Jordan said.
Alameda Country District Attorney Tom Orloff said his office has a standby team that goes out on all officer-involved shootings.
Orloff said he could only remember prosecuting one officer-involved fatal shooting. That case, he said, was several years ago and a jury acquitted the officer.
The full coroner's report is awaiting a toxicology examination, which an Alameda County Coroner's spokesman said could take as long as two months to complete.