Screen capture from BART Police Department body-camera video showing a fatal officer-involved shooting on Jan. 3, 2018. (BART)
Updated 5:20 p.m. Wednesday
BART has released video (below) of a fatal officer-involved shooting that took place last month outside the West Oakland BART Station.
The video released Wednesday shows BART Police Officer Joseph Mateu responding to gunshots near the station on Jan. 3 and opening fire on two men involved in an altercation at the corner of Seventh and Chester streets.
After repeatedly shouting, "Let me see you hands, both of you!" at the struggling men, Mateu fires three shots from a distance that appears in the footage to be as little as 5 feet. Mateu yells, "Let me see your hands!" twice more as the two men sprawl on the sidewalk immediately after the shooting.
"I’m just, I’m really really crushed by it. My heart is so broken," Yolanda Banks, the mother of the man who shot and killed, said in an interview earlier this month. "Your life can be snuffed out in the blink of an eye."
Banks did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The shooting is the subject of a legal claim filed last week by the family of Sahleem Tindle, whom Mateu fatally wounded. The legal claim acknowledges that Tindle had been armed and had shot a second, unidentified man before Mateu ran to the scene.
“The other man who had been involved in the altercation with Mr. Tindle had been shot in the leg by Mr. Tindle and had disarmed Mr. Tindle of the handgun prior to Officer Mateu’s arrival,” the claim says. "Claimants allege that Officer Mateu never saw a weapon or any object in either man's possession."
BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said at a press conference Wednesday that he wanted to "dispel misinformation" after portions of the video were "surreptitiously recorded" and posted to social media this week.
Those portions of video were recorded when members of Tindle's family were shown the video at the Oakland Police Department on Feb. 7. They were published Tuesday evening after a week of demands by Tindle's family for the video's release.
"He hears a couple gunshots, and within a minute, as everybody’s running into the station in a frenzy, he’s running into the gunfire," Rojas said. "And what I call that is courage."
Rojas said he believes the video shows both men struggling for a gun as Mateu ran toward them.
"Did the officer see this? I don’t know. That will come out as part of the criminal investigation," Rojas said. "But I can tell you that this is what the video shows."
He said a later frame from the video shows the man wrestling with Tindle had nothing in his hands. After Mateu fired three shots into Tindle's back, a handgun can be seen on the ground, near both men.
The video includes three still images apparently meant to demonstrate the presence of a gun at the scene. In the first of those images, three seconds before Mateu opens fire, no gun is obvious. A handgun is plainly visible in images immediately after Mateu opens fire.
"I know there’s a gun on the ground," civil rights attorney John Burris said after Wednesday's video release. "I saw that. The issue is, when the officer was coming up, did he see a gun in either one of the man’s hands at the time he shot him. And that I could not see on the video."
Burris represents Tindle's family in their legal claim against BART.
He added that the video doesn't make clear why Mateu chose to shoot Tindle.
"It was purely guesswork from the officer’s point of view and arbitrary, and that has not changed given what I saw at the beginning," Burris said. "The issue is what the officer saw at the time he fired the shot."
The shooting is being investigated by the Oakland Police Department and Alameda County District Attorney's Office, and is the subject of an internal investigation by BART police and a review by the Office of the Independent Police Auditor for BART.
The Oakland Police Department did not respond to questions posed about BART's decision to release the video.
"I’m not here to criticize the Oakland Police Department in terms of what the method to their madness is in releasing body-worn camera footage," Rojas said, but he added that the video is just one piece of evidence that can be taken out of context. "it does present problems when we're trying to protect the integrity of an investigation."
Rojas said questions of whether his department would more quickly release body-camera footage in future cases was one for BART policymakers.
But Burris said he is glad that the full version of the video was made public.
"It seemed that public pressure served a useful purpose here," Burris said. "Public pressure by the family demanding that it be shown and releasing a portion of it caused the department to be more transparent than they would have been."
"BART should have released it from the very beginning," he added.
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