Oakland agrees to pay $1.4M to mother of homeless man killed by police
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland City Council has unanimously agreed to pay the mother of Joshua Pawlik $1.4 million after police officers killed him when they found him sleeping in front of a home with a gun in his hand.
The vote came April 23, two years after Pawlik was shot to death on March 11, 2018. His death led to the city's call to fire five officers, the ouster of Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and questions about the overuse of the department's Bearcat armored vehicle, on which officers stood and used as a perch to point their weapons at Pawlik.
The money will go to Pawlik's mother, Kelly Pawlik, who filed a wrongful death suit against the city and police.
Oakland police referred KTVU's inquiries on Monday to the city attorney's office, which did not immediately respond for comment.
"I hope this causes a sea change with OPD leadership," said the family's attorney, Adante Pointer. "The test will be when OPD face another encounter like this. Will they show restraint?"
A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against four Oakland police officers on behalf of the mother of a man shot dead by the officers last year, the plaintiff's attorney said Tuesday.
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The settlement was put on the agenda by Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney and seconded by Councilman Noel Gallo.
In a phone interview Monday morning, Gallo said he voted for the payout because the council was told by a consultant that if the case went to trial, a jury award could cost Oakland closer to $5 million.
"We were told there was no way we'd win," Gallo said. He said he sends his condolences to the Pawlik family, but that he made his decision purely out of his desire to "keep the books balanced in Oakland," which is also facing the Ghost Ship civil suit and up to $80 million in losses by July.
On the evening he was killed, someone had called 911 to report that Pawlik, who had a history of substance abuse, was lying on the ground between two houses on 40th Street. The caller said he thought Pawlik had a pistol in his hand and that he appeared to be asleep or unconscious.
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When police arrived, they shouted commands at him in English and Spanish. Pawlik awoke with the gun in his hand. Officers told their superiors that they fired at him because he would not put down his gun.
Kirkpatrick, the chief at the time, agreed with the officers' version of the story and did not discipline them.
However, a federal monitor tasked with overseeing the police department called her view of the situation "disappointing and myopic."
The Oakland Police Commission, made up of civilians, voted to terminate the officers. They found that officers Brandon Hraiz, William Berger and Craig Tanaka as well as Sgt. Francisco Negrete, all discharged their rifles resulting in Pawlik's death in violation of police policy. They also found that Officer Josef Phillips discharged a bean bag at Pawlik, which they said was a violation of the department's use-of-force policy.
And in February, the commissioners decided to fire Kirkpatrick, citing the Pawlik death as one of the many reasons they were disappointed with her leadership.
For her part, Kirkpatrick called her ouster unfair and has vowed to sue the city.
The five officers lost an important Skelly hearing earlier this month and are now fighting for their jobs through the arbitration process.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez