Lawsuit against FBI alleges Oakland man was 'executed' in 2021 shooting

Family members of Michael Jonathan Cortez, an Oakland resident who was killed by law enforcement, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the FBI Thursday. 

In the lawsuit, family members alleged the FBI fatally shot Cortez on Sept. 13, 2021 "executed [Cortez] without reasonable justification or cause." They claim the agent who shot Cortez did so "willfully, maliciously, intentionally, deliberately, or recklessly" with no regard for his safety and rights.

Family members said Cortez was allegedly unarmed and "kneeling down" and in a "surrendering position" when he was shot.

Cortez was killed after an agent entered the U-U Smoke Shop located at 2585 Fruitvale Ave. in Oakland when an FBI agent, dressed in plain clothes, entered the store with his gun drawn and pointed, according to the lawsuit. 

According to a friend of Cortez that was waiting outside the store for him as Cortez bought inside, the agent pulled up to the corner of Fruitvale Avenue and Blossom Street when he said he saw a white person dressed in everyday clothes run around the car and holding what appeared to be a weapon.

The friend alleges the agent pushed past him saying "get out the way" and heard a gunshot shortly after. The lawsuit states the friend and other witnesses did not hear the agent identify themselves or give any commands.

Family and friends of Jonathan Cortez

Video footage released by the Oakland Police Department corroborates the friend's statement; showing the agent holding what looked like a firearm and entering the store, the lawsuit said.

An employee of the store, who said they regularly served Cortez, saw the agent also pointing his gun and believed a robbery was taking place. According to the lawsuit, the employee ran into a "safe space" of the store and believed Cortez tried to do so as well shortly before he was shot in his chest.

"[The agent] shot [Cortez] despite the fact that [Cortez] did not present a threat to the safety of [the agent] or the public at large," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleged the FBI denied the family their civil rights with Cortez's death.

Family and friends of Jonathan Cortez

However, according to a revised statement from the FBI, Cortez was armed during the shooting. 

The FBI also stated he was a threat to the federal officers serving an arrest warrant. They also alleged Cortez drew a gun during the encounter, had a "violent history" and was a convicted felon.

The FBI also stated "the man shot and killed" was wanted on "several warrants," two of which were from the Hayward Municipal Court.

Cortez's family has said the agent involved did not have to use deadly force "even if he was a parolee." The family also said Cortez was a father of three and aspired to be a chef like his own father, and "was full of life, always smiling and went out of his way to help people."

The FBI additionally alleged the agent confronted Cortez in order to arrest him.

At the scene, an illegal gun, illegal magazine, and other gun parts were seized, according to FBI officials. 

The FBI agent involved was working as a deputized member of a U.S. Marshal's Service task force, which also assisted in an investigation following Cortez's death.

O. Gloria Okorie is a digital reporter for KTVU. Email O. Gloria at or call her at 510-874-0175. Follow her on Twitter @ogloriaokorie.