Civil rights attorney John Burris said Tuesday that a BART police officer who fatally shot a suspect near the West Oakland BART station last month should be prosecuted for murder because the suspect wasn’t armed and wasn’t posing a threat at the time.
Speaking at a noisy rally that was attended by about 75 people outside the station, Burris said the Oakland Police Department’s claim that BART Officer Joseph Mateu shot 28-year-old Shaleem Tindle of Oakland because he refused to drop a gun isn’t supported by video footage from Mateu’s body camera.
Burris said Tindle clearly was “grappling” with another man in the 1400 block of Seventh Street across the street from the West Oakland station at about 4:40 p.m. on Jan. 3, but he said Tindle didn’t have a gun in his hands when Mateu approached the two men and had his hands up and his back turned when Mateu shot him.
Burris said Tindle had “a puzzled look” on his face when the officer shot him, as if he wondered why the officer was shooting him.
Burris said he also has filed a claim against BART for allegedly violating Tindle’s civil rights and the rights of his family.
He said Tindle was the father of a young boy and girl.
BART issued a statement that didn’t directly address Burris’ allegations but said it is:
“…committed to a full and independent investigation into what occurred when one of our officers responded to reports of multiple shots being fired and a fight between two men near the West Oakland BART station.”
BART said the shooting is subject to an investigation both by Oakland police and the BART Police Department and the Oakland investigation will be reviewed by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office wasn’t immediately available for comment on the status of its investigation into the shooting or whether it will consider filing charges against Mateu, who was hired as a community service assistant for BART police in May 2003, was sworn in as a police officer in November 2007 and was promoted to senior police officer in January 2010.
Mateu currently is on paid leave, which BART officials said is standard in any internal investigation.
Oakland police, who investigated the shooting, said shortly afterward that the incident began when Mateu, who was on duty and in his uniform, was inside the West Oakland station at 1451 Seventh St. and heard a shooting taking place.
Mateu responded to the shooting near the intersection of Seventh and Chester streets, just west of the station, where he saw two men in a struggle and one of them possessing a handgun, police said.
Oakland police said that after giving several commands, Mateu opened fire, striking one of the men, later identified as Tindle, who they said was in possession of the handgun.
Tindle was taken to a hospital and later succumbed to his injuries, according to police.
The other man involved in the altercation was also taken to a hospital in stable condition and later was released.
Oakland police said a firearm was recovered from the scene.
Burris said shots were fired before Mateu approached Tindle and the other man but he said:
“We don’t know who fired then and who was injured. [Mateu] had no legal justification to shoot because he couldn’t tell who was doing what [while Tindle grappled with the other man as they had each other in headlocks and bodylocks].”
Karim Mayfield, a professional boxer who is Tindle’s brother, said:
“[Tindle] was a good man, a good father, a good nephew.”
Mayfield told people at the rally:
“We should make these racist-ass police officers pay for what they did.”
Tindle’s father Yhshky Tindle said:
“My heart is broken and my life is shattered. These cops are getting away with murder. These people are animals and this has to stop.”
Burris called for BART to release the video footage from Mateu’s body camera.
In its statement, the transit agency said:
“Once the multiple investigations into this incident are complete, BART is committed to releasing all relevant information related to what happened, including video from the involved officer’s body-worn camera.”