You don't want to get arrested for drinking in public, right?" a Fremont police officer asked Fremont mayoral candidate Justin Sha outside a black-tie fundraiser for the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation last October.
Video of Sha's interaction with Fremont police, a Fremont official who appears to be helping Sha get home safely, and the executive director of the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation, has been circulating across Southern Alameda County politics for weeks as the campaign to unseat Fremont Mayor Lily Mei begins to ramp up.
When Sha, seen with a drunken wobble in the video, disagreed with the officer's assessment of his state of mind, she added, "You just admitted to drinking."
"Did I ever admit to drinking?" Sha said as the police officer walked away.
A woman, believed to be a Fremont Councilmember Teresa Keng, sided with the officer and told Sha, "You did!"
"I never said ... I said I drank three beers," Sha stammered.
Sha and Keng then walked toward a SUV with its driver's-side door open. Two other individuals, including Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Angus Cochran, were heard repeating, "You can't drive. You can't drive."
Cochran later encouraged Sha to walk toward the passenger side door so someone else could drive him home. But Sha didn't immediately move and now refutes claims he was slurring his speech.
"During the referenced incident, I did not drive home, nor did I attempt to do so," Sha said in an email. "While I remain committed to putting my best foot forward at all times — as a leader, a son, and a friend — there will always be room for growth and learning. The incident referenced has no bearing on my ability to guide Fremont into a new generation of progressive leadership. I greatly look forward to bringing our community together both during and after this campaign."
Sha is among five candidates challenging incumbent Fremont Mayor Mei this fall. In 2018, Sha finished third in a highly-competitive race for the new District 4 seat on the Fremont City Council.
This is not Sha's first brush with controversy during this current mayoral campaign. The Bay Area Reporter published an article last month challenging Sha's claim, made since his 2018 run for the Fremont City Council, that he is a lawyer. Sha admitted he is not a lawyer, but actually a law clerk. "Yes, I definitely made a mistake and should have been more careful. I've done a lot of self-reflection since the election and I'm definitely still learning," he told the newspaper.
In the video in which Sha appeared inebriated, he commented on the departing Fremont police officer. "She's walking away because she knows," he said, and then added, "I'm a lawyer."