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DA Calls Police Shooting Justified

Plus, Oakland council committee urges audit of county jail.

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AGUSTIN GONSALEZ
  • Agustin Gonsalez

An investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office into the fatal police shooting of Agustin Gonsalez last November concluded that officers were justified in their actions, and that the victim may have wanted police to kill him.

Gonsalez, a 29-year-old resident of Lathrop with a history of mental illness, allegedly carried a knife when Hayward police confronted him on the 2400 block of Oneil Avenue. After veteran Officer Phillip Wooley repeatedly but unsuccessfully told Gonsalez to drop the knife, he fired his service weapon nine times at Gonsalez. Officer Michael Clark fired his weapon three additional times. Another officer, Sgt. Tasha DeCosta said she was unable to quickly communicate her assessment that Gonsalez appeared intent on getting police to kill him the two other officers. 

"The credible and admissible evidence shows that Officers Wooley and Clark acted in what they actually and reasonably believed to be self-defense and defense of others," the DA's office concluded. "The examined evidence does not support the contention that the shooting of Mr. Gonsalez was criminal."

Investigators described Gonsalez as being suicidal over a recent break up, including a text message sent roughly five hours before his death. "I've surrendered myself to the devil and gave in. I don't care if I look like a coward, but now everyone needs to suffer like I have. ... I'm sorry to everyone buy you are to blame to this. ... I'm dead inside so I'm not sorry for the outcome."

But the report, which was released by the DA to the city on May 13, also casts doubt over whether the knife or blade was actually in his possession when confronted by police. Wooley told investigators that he saw a glimpse of what he believed was a blade of some type, but initially viewed the "low ready" stance made by Gonsalez to be a position made by someone before shooting a gun. Clark told investigators that he saw Gonsalez holding a "grayish metal four inch box cutter." According to the report, "When shown a photo of a razor blade recovered at the scene, Officer Clark said he did not recognize that as being at the scene."

DeCosta told investigators that she was not in a position to see Gonsalez's hands at the time of the shooting. Video evidence of whether Gonsalez had an object in his hands were inconclusive, the report found. But a witness recounted that Gonsalez had a razor blade before police had arrived on the scene as was swinging it around and acting like he was trying to cut himself. 

Video of the shooting captured by Wooley's body worn camera showed that only seven seconds transpired from the time he exited his vehicle until when he discharged his weapon. The timing has been a topic of great concern by Gonsalez's family, who along with friends, and police accountability activists have called on city officials to open an independent investigation of the incident.

"The loss of life of Agustin Gonsalez is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to his family and all those affected," the Hayward Police Department said in a statement Tuesday, but declined further comment due to an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation into the matter and a pending lawsuit filed by the Gonsalez family.

Fox News Won't Give Swalwell a Presidential Town Hall

On the day that Rep. Eric Swalwell failed to register any support in a presidential poll conducted by Fox News, he told CNN that the rival conservative cable news network was not interested in airing a town hall featuring his campaign.

Some Democratic presidential candidates have appeared on Fox in such town halls, including Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Others, like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, vow to never to give the right wing channel the time of day. Not Swalwell.

"I would absolutely do a Fox town hall," Swalwell told CNN. "But they told us we can't have one, which is a little bit confusing to us because they have given them to people who are polling at the same place as us. I can only conclude that they are afraid to give me the opportunity."

Fox said it has made no final determination about inviting Swalwell. However, among lower-tier candidates, Swalwell might actually garner positive ratings. Upset Fox News viewers appear to be the portion of the electorate most interested thus far in Swalwell's campaign, particularly among gun owners who believe his proposed assault weapons buyback proposal would lead to the confiscation of all guns.

Meanwhile, until the paperwork was amended Wednesday, a man named Robert Wieskowski had filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in a bid to replace Eric Swalwell in the East Bay's 15th Congressional District. That's right. State Sen. Robert "Bob" Wieckowski's campaign spelled his name incorrectly in the first official signal that he is running for Congress.

San Leandro Likely to Add Eviction Controls for Mobile Homes

San Leandro councilmembers asked city staff last March to go back to drawing board and improve a proposed mobile home rent ordinance. At press time, San Leandro was making a second attempt at passing what is now a beefed-up ordinance that includes just-cause protections for mobile home renters.

Housing activists had lauded the proposed ordinance that would have given mobile homeowners greater rent protections, but also found it somewhat incomplete. So they urged the council to include just-cause protections and fine-tune the mechanism used to determine annual rent increases. 

Just-cause regulations for mobile home rentals is already included in state law. The ordinance will spell out that mobile home owners can only be evicted from the plot of land they rent with a specific cause — seven reasons, in fact — such as nonpayment of rent, violating the rental agreement, and the renter constituting a nuisance to neighbors.

The problem of rising mobile home rents and displacement has grown acute in San Leandro in recent years. In addition, to the housing crisis in the entire Bay Area, San Leandro's issues appear to stem from the sale of three mobile home parks in the city and an uptick in rent hikes and evictions.

In Other News ...

A resolution urging Alameda County's Board of Supervisors to audit the Sheriff's Department was approved by an Oakland City Council committee Tuesday, KTVU reported. ... A former resident of the Ghost Ship testified that Child Protective Services and Oakland Police had been inside the warehouse in the months prior to the December 2016 fire that killed 36 people, ABC7 reported. Meanwhile, a city fire captain testified that master tenant Derick Almena told him nobody was living in the warehouse when he toured the location, Bay City News reported. ... A Berkeley resident may have exposed shoppers at Berkeley Bowl to measles on May 7. ...

A Richmond cop involved in the Celeste Guap police misconduct scandals in 2016 was reinstated to his job despite the protests of the city manager, the East Bay Times reported. ... The Trump administration is threatening to cut federal funding to California fire departments, the Sacramento Bee reports. ... A report by the California Energy Commission said the state's inflated gas prices may be due to "market manipulation," the Associated Press reported. ... According to new data gathered last January, there are 8,022 homeless people in Alameda County, an increase of 43 percent over the previous year, the Mercury News reported. ... The Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and leveled the city of Paradise, was caused by a PG&E transmission line, Cal Fire said in a report. ...

A judge ruled that the parents of a West Point cadet from Concord who died in a skiing accident can use his sperm to produce a child. ... The NBA Finals is coming to Oakland for a fifth straight year after the Warriors defeated the Portland Trailblazers in overtime Monday night. ...

If the Danville Town Council dishes out cake to celebrate making 7.6 percent of a building affordable then perhaps I should throw a citywide taco party to celebrate the 87 units of 100 percent affordable housing we're opening this fall. — Emeryville Councilmember John Bauters on Twitter. 

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