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The Mother and the Officer

Years after a fatal police shooting, one of the cops responsible is helping the victim's mom seek answers.



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"In the end you could be the sole defendant found liable by a jury for use of excessive force with a multimillion-dollar judgment rendered against you," Olson wrote to Bellusa, concluding that the school district might not indemnify him.

Because he was concerned about how the investigation was being handled, Bellusa sought the counsel of his friend, former OPD Lt. Mike Yoell. Yoell told him to go to the FBI. Bellusa did, and he shared emails with the Express showing that he forwarded information to federal agents and told them that he felt the school district was carrying out a cover-up.

The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into OUSD in 2012 — a probe believed to have been prompted by the controversial shooting and how it was handled — but nothing came of it. Bellusa's emails to the FBI didn't lead to a case against the district or anyone else involved.

In the end, OUSD paid a $497,500 settlement to Davis, but the officers weren't held personally liable, and the school district admitted no wrongdoing.

Bellusa later filed his own lawsuit against the school district alleging retaliation and claiming to be a whistleblower. He settled with the district in late 2014 for $550,000 and also retired. His attorney, Dan Siegel, told news media at the time that the settlement "allows him to close this chapter of his life and go on to the next chapter."

Yet Bellusa hasn't entirely moved on to that next chapter. Today, he lives a seemingly normal life in East Contra Costa County with his wife and two children. He works as a loan officer for a mortgage company and does all the things you'd expect of a suburban dad. He volunteers for schools and even hosts a radio show about real estate. But he says the nagging sense that the shooting and everything afterward was improperly handled tugs at his conscience.

Neither Bellusa nor Davis have any financial incentive to keep questioning what happened. There's no more cause to bring a civil lawsuit. In fact, they probably have more to lose by dredging up the past.

And yet they do. Earlier this year, Bellusa contacted OPD homicide detectives and asked them to re-interview him about what happened that night. They agreed, and the former-sergeant spilled his guts to them once again. Bellusa then wrote a follow-up email to one of the investigators: "I have been doing everything I can to bring this to light because I don't want to be a part of it. I want this off my shoulders so I can move on with my life."

The investigators haven't taken any action, however.

Davis said the civil lawsuits couldn't provide her with what she really needed: a sense that someone was being held accountable for the death of her son. "I'm gonna keep doing this 'til they get it right. My baby's life was worth something," she said in an interview last week.

Everything about their alliance seems unlikely. Bellusa, who stands over six feet tall, still carries himself like a cop: calm, observant, confident. When he talks, he's methodical, as though he's dictating a police report. Davis is more animated and speaks in a quick, spontaneous way. In several interviews conducted in each other's presence for this story, Bellusa would often slowly describe a series of events or recall detailed dates and facts about the case, while Davis would chime in with "yep" and "right."

But Davis does her homework, too. Although a working grandmother with virtually no spare time between taking care of her family and paying the bills, she has poured over thousands of pages of police records and court documents over the last few years — all part of her own investigation.

And when Bellusa talks, Davis focuses intently on him. Even though she's probably heard everything he has to say before, she seems to believe that somewhere in his memory of what happened that night, there's an overlooked thread that will tie everything together.

Apart, they unsuccessfully protested for years for an intervention by outside authorities to reexamine the shooting and how it was handled by OUSD. Together, they hope they can convince someone to reopen the case and that criminal charges could still someday be brought, and those who they allege covered up the shooting and mishandled the internal investigation could be held accountable.

It may not happen.

In the meantime, the mother and the officer meet for coffee and talk. 


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