Community urges de-escalation after Tracy police shoot 17-year-old Afghan boy

The recent shooting by a Tracy police officer of a teenager armed with a knife was denounced Wednesday by supporters and representatives of the boy's family.

The 17-year-old boy, a recent immigrant from Afghanistan, is recovering in a hospital and was in stable condition on Wednesday, according to representatives who spoke on behalf of the family. 

Advocates and legal counsel with the Sacramento Valley/Central California chapter of the nonprofit Council on American Islamic Relations spoke on the steps of Tracy City Hall with other advocates, calling on the Tracy Police Department to update its use-of-force policy to emphasize de-escalation training and to provide culturally sensitive training to officers. 

"Having watched the video of this tragic incident, we believe that the officer should have used other actions other than potentially deadly force to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the child who was shot," said Reshad Noorzay, development and special projects director for CAIR. 

Tracy Police Chief Sekou Millington held a press conference Tuesday that included the release of officer body-worn camera footage and audio of a neighbor's 911 call as the interaction unfolded on Jan. 27. The audio described a chaotic scene on the street involving a person with a knife. 

The responding officer's body camera showed the officer make contact with someone on the residential street who starts to explain something about their brother, who then appears in the scene riding a bicycle holding what appears to be a large knife. The person on the bike got off, at which point the officer ordered him to drop the knife, but he did not and stepped toward the officer, who then fired his gun. 

Layli Shiran, a civil rights attorney with CAIR representing the family, said they are deeply traumatized and reeling from recent events. Shiran said the family was thankful for the community's support. 

Gulshan Yusufzai, executive director of Muslim American Society-Social Services (MAS-SFF), said that the family, who arrived in America two months ago from Afghanistan, had been through a lot and recommended that the Tracy Police Department connect with cultural training resources that she said San Joaquin County has available. 

"Almost every underserved community has a stigma that's associated with accessing services," Yusufzai said. 

She said it was important for community partners to step up and she echoed calls for the Tracy Police Department to improve cultural training. 

Mustafa Babak, Afghan American Foundation executive director, said the episode was especially upsetting for recently arrived Afghans. 

"Like many other immigrants who have come to this country to help write the story of America, Afghans who have newly arrived, but also Afghans who have been here, also want to write the story of America. But this incident is one part of that story that we don't want to be part of," Babak said. 

CAIR national board member Spojmie Nasiri also called on Tracy police to hold a community town hall to discuss what had happened and called the shooting an injustice. 

"We are here to support the family of the victim," said Zuhal Bahaduri, executive director of the organization the 5ive Pillars Organization, which helps resettle Afghans in Northern California. 

Millington said on Tuesday that the officer did not have time to use his Taser stun gun or other potentially non-lethal intervention and that the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.