OAKLAND, Calif. - A civil jury on Wednesday awarded $7.2 million to the the family of Sahleem Tindle, a 28-year-old man who was shot to death in front of the West Oakland BART station, according to their lawyers from the John Burris Law Firm.
"The jury understood the case," the attorney who tried the case, Ben Nisenbaum, told KTVU. "This was a tragedy all around. He was shot for no good reason."
Tindle's mother, Yolanda Banks, spoke at a news conference on Thursday, saying she can never replace the loss of her son. But she added that even though she can't be compensated for that, the jury award helps a bit.
This was the second jury in the civil case presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers. The first set of jurors, who convenced on Feb. 1, came back in two weeks with a hung jury. The second jury also came back with a verdict in two weeks, Nisenbaum said.
Tindle was killed at 4:41 p.m. Jan. 3, 2018 in the 1400 block of Seventh Street across from the West Oakland BART station.
The officer in question is BART Officer Joseph Mateu, who was cleared two years ago by the District Attorney's Office following the shooting. Mateu is still employed at BART.
Sahleem Tindle, 28, of Oakland was killed in January 2018 by a BART police officer.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency "respects the process and are currently reviewing our options."
Russell Bloom, BART's Independent Police Auditor, did not have a comment regarding the verdict. However, now that the civil trial has concluded, Bloom said his office will investigate and make any results public under a police transparency law, SB 1421.
An argument over Air Jordans preceded the fatal shooting.
Tindle was on his way to BART with his children and girlfriend when he got into a fight with Rayvell Newton, a man who hung out in the neighborhood and who he didn't really know. Apparently, Tindle was eyeing the sneakers and Newton didn't like it.
Yolanda Banks, Sahleem Tindle's mother, speaks at a news conference in October 2018
Tindle had allegedly taken the bag with the sneakers inside, according to a prosecutor's report, and Newton confronted him about it. Tindle gave the bag back, but other witnesses reported that Tindle pointed a pistol at him.
Tindle indeed had a gun in his pocket, Nisenbaum said, but there was no evidence presented at trial that he pulled it out and used it intentionally during the fight.
The two men got struggled on the sidewalk outside the BART station and two shots were fired from Tindle’s gun. One bullet went through the window of a nearby barber shop, and the other into the man’s leg.
Mateu left the BART station and ran to the scene after the shots were fired.
Mateu’s body camera footage shows him running to the scene and heard shouting, “Let me see your hands!”
Tindle has his back to Mateu and was on his knees when he Mateu approached. Shots were fired. Tindle rolled over on his back. He had been hit. His hands were empty.
Body camera video from BART Officer Joseph Mateau in January 2018.
Despite Banks saying that her son had been "murdered," the District Attorney's report on the death concluded that Mateu “could not see Mr. Tindle holding a gun at the time he shot Mr. Tindle.”
But Mateu explained to authorities that he shot Tindle because “he feared that Mr. Tindle had the gun in his right hand” and could have shot somebody else, or the officer, according to the DA's file on the case.
As for how to reconcile the fact that a jury awarded Tindle's family so much money and the fact that Mateu was cleared of all wrongdoing, Nisenbaum answered: "The DA did not analyze the case properly."
He said the only time the District Attorney has ever charged an officer with a crime was for the BART shooting death of Oscar Grant in 2009. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Nisenbaum also noted that the standard of proof is different between criminal and civil cases.