FREMONT, Calif. (BCN) - Fremont police on Wednesday released videos on a new "Transparency Portal" of six police shootings over the last four years, including three fatal shootings and two incidents where the suspect eventually took their own life.
The videos cover most of the shootings by Fremont police officers since 2015 but omit both incidents when officers shot and killed unarmed people.
The department did not release video of the shooting of 16-year-old Elena Mondragon, a passenger in a fleeing vehicle who was killed by plainclothes detectives in Hayward on March 14, 2017. Nor did the
department release video of the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Nana Adomako, a homeless man who was killed in a struggle with Officer James Taylor on Feb. 5, 2017.
Geneva Bosques, a department spokeswoman, said the department withheld details about those investigations because in Adomako's case the department is still being sued. In the Mondragon case, there is a criminal case pending against the car's driver, Rico Tiger, who is charged with Mondragon's murder under the state's provocative act doctrine. The department is expecting to be sued in that case as well.
Bosques referred further questions to City Attorney Harvey Levine, who did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
But in a letter to KTVU in January, the city did say it had about 2,000 pages of police and investigatory reports available for about $200. The city's letter also said it had 911 calls, body camera and dashcam video along with photographs and other audio, which would be provided at a cost.
Most of the video released was cobbled together from video taken by the officers' dashboard cameras, surveillance video and bystander video and edited together in a narrative format.
No officer involved in the shootings activated a body-worn camera prior to using deadly force. While the Fremont Police Department started a pilot program for body-worn cameras in 2014, it did not deploy cameras to all officers until late last year.
Two officers activated their cameras after a shooting in April 2018; the shooting was recorded because the cameras continuously record and save the previous 30 seconds of footage prior to activation, but without audio.
"In almost all of these cases where we have released video, we had no body-cams issued to the officers," Bosques said. "Since rolling out the cameras in November, checks are conducted regularly and there are even reminders posted on the exit doors."
The department also released summary reports for each of the videos released Wednesday indicating that each shooting was found to be in department policy. The letters fall short of disclosure requirements under California's new police transparency law, SB 1421, but Bosques indicated that
administrative review documents were available by request.
Of the six videos released on Wednesday, in two cases the suspect was armed with a knife and apparently suffering from a mental health crisis. In the only non-fatal shooting, the suspect was swinging a pipe around, but the shooting itself was not on video.
In three cases. the suspect either fired on or pointed a gun at officers. In one case an officer was shot in the head.
The first shooting was from Jan. 16, 2015. Police were called to Sylvester P. Harvey Community Park, where a 911 caller said a man was brandishing a knife and had attacked a vendor. Dash cam video shows the officers pull up on the man, identified as Zaki Shinwary, a 48-year-old homeless man, who approached the officers while yelling and holding something in his pocket. After he walked out of the camera view, the officers shot him.
A second shooting of a man with a knife happened later that year, on July 20, 2015. A woman called police and said her roommate had threatened her with a knife, threatened his wife, and threatened to kill himself. When police arrived, the man, identified as 54-year-old Troy Francis, came
outside, started walking toward the officers while pointing the knife at them, and they shot him within seconds. Francis died about a month later.
An incident on June 1, 2016, led to a sprawling manhunt for 44-year-old Gerald Villabrille, whom police said was a documented gang member who shot a police officer in the head. The officer, who was not identified, had tried to pull over Villabrille after receiving a "be on the lookout" alert for white rental
trucks that had not been returned. Villabrille drove away from the officer, running a red light, and pulled into an Auto Zone parking lot. The officer crashed his car into the truck to keep Villabrille from escaping.
Video indicates that the officer fired first, shattering the truck's driver's side window. Police said after the officer recovered from his head injury, he could not remember the incident at all.
Bystander video shows the officer holding Villabrille at gunpoint while he dances around near the back of the disabled truck, yelling, "you shot me, why'd you shoot me?"
Villabrille then got back into the truck, shot the officer three times and ran away. As police swarmed the area in pursuit, Villabrille exchanged gunfire with two detectives, hitting one in the chest.
Twenty four local, state and federal law enforcement agencies responded to assist with the manhunt for Villabrille. They eventually tracked him to a house on Roberts Avenue. After a long standoff, the house caught fire. When officers finally got the fire out and went inside, Villabrille was found dead, his body charred. An autopsy determined he had shot himself.
The first moments of an incident that led to a shooting on April 9, 2017, was recorded on a body worn camera from an East Bay Regional Park District officer who was looking for a suspect in an armed robbery in Newark. A customer at a 7-Eleven flagged the officer down and said a man parked
nearby had pulled a gun on him.
The parks officer pulled behind the suspect's car. One of the occupants, later identified as 24-year-old Roger Perez, ran out and around the corner of the store.
Fremont police officers found him in a Walgreens parking lot, where he had climbed on top of a box truck. Officer Brendon Johnson exchanged gunfire with him. A short time later, officers heard another gunshot. Police later said that he had killed himself. The shooting was recorded on the
officers' dash camera.
The only non-fatal incident included in the batch was the shooting of 27-year-old Rolonte Simril on May 29, 2017. Surveillance and dash camera video show Simril waving a pipe wildly in a shopping plaza parking lot on Mowry Avenue. In the video, Officer William Gourley followed Simril off-camera, where he shot him three times. Simril survived and the district attorney's office charged him with resisting arrest and brandishing a weapon, according to police.
The most recent video the department released Wednesday was from April 5, 2018, when seven officers fired on 18-year-old Nathaniel Prasad during a wild pursuit around a gas station.
Police were searching for Prasad, who had two warrants for firearms possession and evading arrest. Officers recognized him in a Dodge Charger and tried to pull over the driver, but Prasad jumped out of the passenger door and ran.
Prasad pulled out a gun and fired on Officer Craig Perry, police said, and Perry returned fire but missed. Prasad circled the gas station and was confronted by several Fremont police officers on the other side. Six more officers fired on him, including after he'd fallen to the ground.
Of the six, only Officer Ralph Meredith and Officer Jamil Roberts activated body-worn cameras, and only after they had shot Prasad.
With the release of the video, Fremont police have now made video disclosures for most of the shootings involving Fremont officers over the last four years. But as the city has decided not to release video for shootings where there are ongoing civil and criminal actions, the most controversial shootings aren't subject to disclosure.
KTVU's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.