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Report clears Oakland police in 2015 fatal shooting

Four Oakland police officers were cleared of criminal charges last week for shooting and killing a man armed with an Airsoft handgun in 2015 as they were winding down enforcement operations during a weekend of wild sideshows throughout Oakland, according to a report released Wednesday by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Richard Perkins Jr., 39, was not involved with the sideshows but approached the officers on Nov. 15, 2015, while allegedly brandishing what looked like a handgun but turned out to be a replica.

Four officers fired on Perkins more than a dozen times and he was struck by 11 bullets, including in his arms, chest and head.

There were at least 13 officers in the area when Perkins was shot, 10 drew their guns, but none turned on their body worn cameras.

The report concluding the district attorney’s investigation, dated Feb. 8, found that the officers’ actions were legal as they were in fear of their lives and the lives of fellow officers when they shot Perkins. It reveals new details about the shooting, including that Perkins had near toxic levels of methamphetamine and morphine in his blood when he died.

Oakland police had been contending with massive sideshows over the weekend leading up to the Sunday evening shooting, including one Saturday night with 700 cars. During one incident, a crowd advanced on and destroyed an Oakland patrol car.

Officers had responded to a large group of motorcyclists who had gone to a gas station at 24-7 Gas & Food mart at 8930 Bancroft Ave. According to the report, one witness who lived in his car parked nearby saw about 50 motorcyclists show up at the gas station who were then chased away by police.

The officers seized at least three dirtbikes involved in the sideshow and were waiting for a tow truck when Perkins approached them.

The officers were on a sidewalk on 90th Avenue at about 5:30 p.m.

Sgt. Joe Turner called a group of officers around his patrol car to debrief them on the sideshow activity, including rookie officers Jonathan Cairo, Joshua Barnard and Allahno Hughes.

Hughes was first to notice Perkins and told investigators Perkins was approaching them on the sidewalk while making eye contact. Perkins then reached into his pants and pulled out what appeared to be a large caliber handgun, according to Hughes, and Hughes shouted a warning to the other officers.

Turner spun around, seeing Perkins about 10 feet away from them, he told investigators. Hughes shot first, firing three shots that did not affect Perkins. After that, all four officers fired a total of 12 more rounds.

There were 13 or more officers in the area and at least 10 of them drew their weapons. Several of the officers who drew their guns didn’t fire because there were other officers standing between them and Perkins.

None of the officers activated their body cameras until after the shooting.

One of the officers who didn’t shoot, Ureal Martinez-Contreras, said during an interview with investigators that he turned on his body camera before the shooting, but the district attorney’s report notes that the actual footage begins after all the shots have been fired.

The investigation relied mainly on the accounts by the police officers. Police interviewed more than 40 witnesses but most reported only hearing gunshots and none of them saw the events leading up to the shooting.

Two surveillance cameras at the gas station recorded a partial view of the shooting. According to the report, one shows the officers standing near a patrol car and then scattering, but the resolution is poor and it is impossible to pick out individual officers.

The other shows Perkins walk toward the officers and then fall to the ground, but the view of his hands is obscured. According to the report, in that video a dark object falls at Perkins’ feet that may be the gun.

Neither the surveillance footage nor the body camera footage captured after the shooting has been released.

Emilyrose Johns, an attorney for Perkins’ family, said last year that the family was allowed to screen the video from the gas station and said it appeared to dispute the police account that Perkins “pointed a firearm in their direction,” as police said in a news release the day of the shooting.

They argued he was trying to show the officers the gun while telling them it wasn’t real.

The Airsoft gun Richard Perkins Jr. was allegedly carrying when he was shot and killed on Nov. 15, 2015 is shown in this photo courtesy of Oakland police. via BCN

The officers’ accounts in the district attorney’s office report indicate that he had the gun pointed toward the ground but as he walked toward them he began to “raise the pistol past the typical arc of his arm’s swing.”

One officer said he brought the gun nearly parallel with the ground.

The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Police Department that is still pending.

That lawsuit is one of two pending suits that Turner is named in.

The other stems from his alleged involvement in an incident outside the home of a county probation officer in December 2015, a month after the shooting, when Oakland police Officer Cullen Faeth showed up at the front door, apparently intoxicated, and allegedly grabbed the woman in a bear hug when she came outside.

Turner was somehow involved in the incident as well and was placed on leave along with two other officers. Faeth pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of battery, trespassing and public intoxication last April and his employment with the department ended in May.

Turner was never charged in the case involving Faeth and exactly what his role was is unclear. Police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson confirmed today that Turner remains employed with the department as an officer, but did not respond to questions about why Turner is no longer a sergeant.

Faeth was also one of the officers present when Perkins was shot, and drew but didn’t fire his weapon.

Accounts of the body camera footage taken immediately after Perkins shooting indicate the officers realized quickly after the shooting that the pistol was a replica.

According to the district attorney’s report, Hughes turned on his body camera just after the shooting and it records him walking over to Perkins and saying, “Fuck sarge, it’s an Airsoft, man.”

Hughes was distraught over the realization, saying as he took a turn performing CPR:

“I thought that shit was real.”

When he’s relieved from CPR, Hughes walks away saying:

“I fucking though that shit was real, man. … Fuck dude. I thought the motherfucker was going to try to smoke us, man.”

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