Oakland to Pay $1.4M to Mom of Homeless Man Killed by Police

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Joshua Pawlik, a homeless man who didn't have a history of violence, was shot and killed by Oakland police on March 11, 2018.  (Courtesy of Mary Howe)

The city of Oakland agreed to pay $1.4 million to the mother of a homeless man killed by police officers in March 2018.

The Oakland City Council's vote on April 23 to approve the settlement comes more than two years after Oakland police shot Joshua Pawlik, who they found sleeping with a gun in his hand. The agreement settles a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his mother, Kelly Pawlik, KTVU-TV reported Monday.

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Pawlik's death prompted the Oakland Police Commission to call for the firing of the five officers involved in the shooting. The commission also voted in February to oust former Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick over her handling of the incident — a move supported by Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Kirkpatrick has vowed to sue the city over her firing.

Police on March 11, 2018 responded to reports of Pawlik, 31, holding a gun as he lay unconscious on the ground between two houses in West Oakland. Officers said they tried to wake him up, shouting at him to take his hands off the gun and firing after he failed to comply.

The shooting was captured on multiple police body cameras — including at least one video showing the gun on the ground next to Pawlik. The footage was used by police commissioners and a federal monitor to determine that the man did not pose an immediate threat.

According to the body-camera video, released by the Oakland Police Department eight months after the shooting, Pawlik attempted to lift himself off the ground when four of the officers opened fire.

“The video also confirms that at no time did Mr. Pawlik raise the handgun towards the officers or otherwise in a threatening manner towards Officers. Mr. Pawlik attempted to raise his head and sit up by using his right elbow for leverage,” police commissioners wrote in their 2019 report.

But the head of Oakland's police officers’ union ripped those findings, calling them “inexplicable” and an “injustice.”


“These Police Officers responded to a citizen’s call for help concerning an armed suspect in their neighborhood,” Oakland Police Officers' Association President Barry Donelan wrote in a 2019 statement. “The officers tried to defuse the situation but the armed suspect engaged our officers putting their lives and the lives of our residents in danger. The Police Commission ignored these facts and a multitude of investigations to reach a predetermined and unjust outcome.”

Pawlik's family filed the lawsuit last year, arguing that the victim's civil rights had been violated. When announcing the suit, civil rights attorney John Burris, who represented the family, claimed that Pawlik “never got a chance to live” when he was shot by a “barrage of gunfire.” He described him as a man with some mental health issues, but no history of violence.

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo told KTVU that he voted for the settlement after a consultant told the council that a jury award could cost the fiscally troubled city up to $5 million.

This article was based on reporting by the Associated Press and KQED.