Oakland Police: Leaked Body Camera Footage of Recent BART Police Shooting Jeopardized Investigation


Oakland Police Capt. Roland Holmgren.
  • Oakland Police Capt. Roland Holmgren.

According to Oakland police officials, the unauthorized release of body camera video of Sahleem Tindle's fatal shooting by a BART police officer jeopardized their investigation of the incident.

Tindle was shot by BART police officer Joseph Mateu in West Oakland on Jan. 3. Mateu recorded the incident on his body-worn camera.

The Oakland Police Department, which is leading the criminal investigation of the shooting, subsequently showed the video to members of Tindle's family. A copy of the video was later released by Tindle's family to the media. Tindle's relatives insist that the video shows an illegal use of force by the BART officer who did not identify himself as police and then shot Tindle in the back. BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas has said Mateu's actions were legal and justified because the men were wrestling over a firearm.

Release of the leaked version of the video ignited a frenzy of media coverage last week. And BART released a full version of the body-camera footage of the shooting. Tindle's family is now asking for criminal charges and have hired an attorney.

At last night's Oakland Police Commission meeting, OPD Capt. Roland Holmgren told commissioners that the unauthorized leak of the video could have tainted his agency's review had investigators not been able to interview a key witness just before the clip was circulated by the media.

"We were barely able to get a potential witness for an interview prior to the unauthorized release of the video," Holmgren said. "That jeopardized our ability to get his statement."

If the witness had seen the unauthorized version of the video before making a statement to OPD, it would have raised questions about whether the witness was recalling what he actually saw during the shooting or whether he simply "regurgitated" what he saw on the news, said Holmgren.

OPD's policy with regard to body camera video of in-custody deaths and police shootings is to withhold the video from the media and public until an investigation is completed. But the department, unlike many, allows immediate family members of those killed by the police to view the video inside police headquarters.

Holmgren said that OPD's policy is in response to family members who desperately want information regarding the death of a loved on.

"We do that with some risk to the investigation," he told the commissioners. "We try to do it as fast as we can in a position where the investigation isn't jeopardized."