Oakland Police Officers Who Shot and Killed Homeless Man Placed on Leave

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 4 years old.
Four Oakland police officers have been placed on leave and reportedly face termination for fatally shooting a homeless man last year who was asleep with a handgun in reach. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Four Oakland police officers involved in the fatal shooting last year of a homeless man they said pointed a gun at them were placed on administrative leave Tuesday.

Sources speaking on condition of anonymity said the officers face termination proceedings.

The move came less than a week after the release of documents showing the Police Department’s federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, ripped Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s decision to lightly discipline the officers involved in the shooting of Joshua Pawlik, 31, on March 11, 2018, despite the recommendations of an OPD review board that called for harsher punishment.

Sgt. Francisco Negrete and officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz and Craig Tanaka were placed on administrative leave, a police spokesperson said Tuesday night. “At this time, the department will not be discussing any additional details.”

Monitor Warshaw's harsh criticism of Kirkpatrick for not meting out tougher discipline was revealed last week in documents released under the state’s new police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421. In a Feb. 19 letter Warshaw called the chief's analysis of the shooting “disappointing and myopic.”


A spokesman for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declined comment Tuesday night.

Last week, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley released a report in which she found the officers didn’t commit any crimes in Pawlik’s death.

Related Coverage

Discipline for policy violations in a shooting death, like that the four Oakland officers are facing, is also rare in California.

The officers found Pawlik asleep in an alley between two houses on the 900 block of 40th Street on March 11, 2018.

In video released last year, officers can be heard shouting commands at him such as “take your hand off the gun” and “don’t move!” before Pawlik stirred.

The video, filmed from a camera placed atop a police vehicle, captures a view of Pawlik apparently waking up around 7:05 p.m. as officers yelled “Put your hands up! Hands off the gun!” A moment later, as Pawlik shifted, police fired 22 shots before grabbing shields and rushing over to him to begin lifesaving measures.

Kirkpatrick, in documents released last week, said nothing contradicted officers’ claims that Pawlik raised his weapon.

But records show Warshaw was clearly displeased about internal affairs investigators’ failure to challenge officer statements he said were at odds with some video footage captured at the scene.

Investigators ignored body-camera footage from a sergeant “who had the foresight to place his camera on the armored vehicle,” allowing for an “unobstructed view.” Warshaw also accused investigators of using leading questions to justify the shooting.

“I reject the Chief’s principal conclusions in this matter,” Warshaw bluntly concluded in an internal letter dated Feb. 19. 

Police Secrets Revealed

Oakland Police Officers Association lawyer Michael Rains said the case has become politicized.

“When this happens, bad decisions are made contrary to facts and established law,” he said. “I’m confident that these officers, based on my knowledge of what happened, are going to retain their jobs.”

In February, Pawlik’s mother, Kelly Pawlik, retained famed Oakland attorney John Burris to represent her in a lawsuit filed last month seeking a jury trial and alleging that officers violated her son’s civil rights.

Reached on Tuesday night, Burris declined to comment, saying he was not in a position to speak publicly on any actions by the department.

Jim Chanin, an Oakland civil rights lawyer who, like Burris, has been involved in the federal monitoring of the department for over 16 years, said the Pawlik shooting is a blow to that process.

“I am very disappointed,” he said. The department is “going steadily backwards.”

The story was first reported by Oakland freelance journalist Darwin BondGraham in a tweet.

Harry Harris of the Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.