Criminal charges against Oakland cops in deadly chase unlikely, expert says
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Police Department is investigating the actions of two officers accused of chasing a sideshow suspect without permission, then taking off after that car crashed and killed a bystander.
Chief LeRonne Armstrong says the officers had to turn in their guns and badges pending an ongoing internal investigation and a possible referral to criminal prosecutors.
"The department is in consultation with the Alameda County district attorney's office regarding any potential culpability the officers may have," Armstrong said at a news conference Wednesday.
KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said the more likely process will be internal discipline after an administrative police investigation.
"If I were to guess right now, these officers are going to be terminated," Cardoza said.
Cardoza said he believes it's a stretch to charge the officers with a crime.
"The people responsible for this are the men that got involved in that sideshow. The men who went 100 miles per hour on the streets of Oakland," Cardoza said.
In fact, Cardoza said, the suspect, Arnold Linaldi, a 19-year-old unlicensed driver, could potentially be charged with murder for driving the Nissan 350Z that crashed, leading to the death of Lolomanaia Soakai, 28, who was standing near 54th Avenue and International Boulevard.
Linaldi posted bail after being arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.
But Cardoza agreed that there are a number of issues that police have to sort out with respect to potential policy violations.
"Did they report it correctly? Did they let the department know they were in a high speed chase? Did they end the high speed chase because it was too dangerous?" Cardoza said.
Also key is whether the officers knew if anyone had been hurt, and whether they called for an ambulance or tried to help, or if they just left, as sources and a cousin of the victim told KTVU.
"They just looked at the car and from what they're saying, one of them yelled ‘I hope he dies’ and they left," said cousin Ian Finau.
The sources and the cousin said that comment referred to the suspect who crashed.
"I know one of the officers may have said something that wasn't appropriate - it was in fact a stupid comment - but you gotta look back and go, c'mon he's emotionally charged," Cardoza said.
The two officers were initially put on standard three days' leave, but that leave has since been extended, and both had their police powers removed and were told to give up their badges and guns, the chief said.