File photo by Lori Eanes
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley accepted a $10,000 campaign donation from the Fremont police union just months before her office cleared Fremont police officers of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of pregnant teen, Elena Mondragon. In addition, the president of the Fremont police union — Sgt. Jeremy Miskella — is one of the cops that shot Mondragon to death one year ago and was subsequently cleared by O’Malley’s office.
At a candidate’s forum in Alameda on Wednesday, O’Malley’s competitor in the June election for district attorney — civil rights attorney Pamela Price — called O’Malley’s actions “disturbing.”
"There's an actual conflict and then there's the appearance of impropriety," said Price. "And I will say to you when we have a district attorney that accepts $10,000 from the Fremont Police Officers Association and then clears the Fremont police officers of killing an unarmed 16-year-old child in a car, that's the appearance of impropriety."
O'Malley defended her campaign’s acceptance of the large contribution by the Fremont Police Officer’s Association and denied that it diminishes her office's ability to remain unbiased in cases involving law enforcement. "The police and people in the community that care about public safety, that care about stability, that care about leadership, that care about the truth and that when putting out information, that it is accurate information, those are the people who are supporting me and have given me contributions," said O'Malley.
"This is a law enforcement job and we work with the police. As I said before, when police do something that is against the law, they either get fired or they get prosecuted."
Miskella and Fremont Detective Joel Hernandez killed the 16-year-old Mondragon in March 2017 in Hayward when they were attempting to apprehend 19-year-old Rico Tiger, who was wanted for a series of armed robberies. Mondragon, who had no criminal record, was a passenger in a car driven by Tiger, and according to police, Tiger attempted to smash his car past a group of police vehicles. Miskella and Hernandez said they shot at the car in self-defense, although neither one of them turned on their body cameras. Mondragon was the only person hit by the police bullets.
Earlier this week, the Mondragon family filed a federal lawsuit
against the Fremont Police Department, alleging that it failed to properly discipline Miskella and Hernandez.
O’Malley’s office investigated the shooting and concluded last month
that Miskella and Hernandez had done nothing illegal. O’Malley accepted the $10,000 donation from the police union in November, while her office was still investigating union President Miskella and Hernandez.
“They gave her money; they're not charging the officers," Price said in an interview. “That's why you don't want to receive tens of thousands of dollars from the police officers’ associations, because you have to maintain the goal of at least the appearance of independence."
Miskella declined to comment about the large donation to O’Malley. The Fremont police union’s contribution was the largest made to O'Malley's campaign during the current election cycle. Former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer also made contributions totaling $10,000 from a campaign account used to hold previous funds.
In addition to the Fremont POA, the Oakland police union gave $9,500 to O'Malley's campaign; the Livermore police union donated $2,500; the Berkeley police union gave $1,000, and San Leandro police contributed $1,000. The union representing Alameda County sheriff deputies also pitched in $8,500 to O’Malley.