Former Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent said in May that the shooting death of Irma Huerta-Lopez had raised concerns, but the department's investigation found that she had taken her own life. He said he welcomed the district attorney's review of that investigation, plus the investigation into the death of her husband -- Officer Brendan O'Brien -- who killed himself in September.
O'Brien left a two-page typed letter discovered on a coffee table in front of his body.
"The letter appeared to be signed by Officer O'Brien," the district attorney's review says. "The letter discussed Officer O'Brien's reasons for committing suicide. The letter did not contradict any of Officer O'Brien's previous statements about Ms. Huerta Lopez's death."
The note, which has not been made public, said "a series of events regarding his wife and work prompted him to commit suicide," according to a coroner's report on O'Brien's death.
"Based on information in the printed suicide note on the coffee table and the investigation, Sgt. Anderson and Sgt. Baker interviewed an 18-year-old woman, Jane Doe, on September 30, 2015 at the Oakland Police Department for over two hours," the district attorney's review of O'Brien's death investigation concludes.
The note is believed to be the beginning of a sprawling internal affairs investigation that the federal judge in charge of overseeing the court-mandated reform effort of the OPD called out for "irregularities" and possible violations of the city's agreement with the court. Judge Thelton Henderson put court-appointed federal monitor Robert Warshaw in charge of the investigation via court order in March.
"The most valuable thing about this report is its suggestion, by facts, that OPD knew about this case in September of 2015, didn’t tell the monitor at all, and the monitor had to go to court and get the case taken away from internal affairs," Chanin said. He said it's unclear whether obscuring the investigation was the fault of internal affairs or Whent, whose sudden resignation June 10 started a quick succession of temporary police chiefs.
An 18-year-old woman who goes by the name "Celeste Guap" told ABC 7
last month that she was in communication with O'Brien shortly before he killed himself. She previously shared text messages with the East Bay Express
detailing a sexual relationship with O'Brien and other OPD officers that began after O'Brien encountered her on a stretch of Oakland's International Boulevard, and before she turned 18.
Guap says she later had sex with approximately 30 law enforcement officers from multiple jurisdictions, including the Richmond, San Francisco and Livermore police departments and the Alameda and Contra Costa County sheriff's departments.
The sexual exploitation crisis also involves at least one former employee of the Alameda District Attorney's Office. Richard Orozco, who is also a former Oakland police captain, was fired from the district attorney's office in early July after being implicated by online interactions with Guap. A KQED review of Guap's Facebook page turned up more than two-dozen current and former San Francisco police officers with ties to her on social media.
"This is gratuitous criminal misconduct, if true, by police officers," Stanford law professor Robert Weisberg said Monday in an interview. He said typical cases of crimes by police officers may involve theft or, at worst, extortion that doesn't involve sex. "Systematic sex trafficking is unbelievably off the charts for American police departments," he said.
Alameda Public Defender Brendon Woods reiterated concerns Monday about the integrity of prosecutions relying on testimony of officers tied to alleged sexual exploitation.
"We currently do not know the exact number of cases impacted by this scandal," Woods said in a written statement. "We remain concerned that, because of the behavior reported by the media, these officers are not credible in the courtroom."
As far as suspicions surrounding Huerta-Lopez's death, Weisberg said the district attorney's review will "carry a lot of weight."
"This isn’t a legal finding," he said. "It doesn’t render judgment in any way. But I think it will be useful in squelching some of the more speculative inferences about what happened."
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called for the district attorney's review in May "in response to questions raised about the integrity of two closed police investigations," according to an emailed response from the mayor's office, which also notes an executive order Schaaf issued at the same time that requires any allegation of criminal misconduct by an Oakland police officer be immediately reported to local prosecutors.
"This third-party review serves to reinforce the integrity of our police investigations," Schaaf said in a written statement. "The public deserves to have confidence that we take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously and that our Police Department continues to operate with the highest level of professional and ethical standards.”
Read the district attorney's report below: