Oakland officers involved in shooting death of homeless man on leave after rift with fed monitor

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Four Oakland police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a homeless man, whom they said pointed a gun at them when he woke up from lying in between two homes were on administrative leave Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.

In a brief statement, Johnna Watson said Sgt. Francisco Negrete  and officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz and  Craig Tanaka were place on administrative leave. "At this time the department will not be discussing any additional details," Watson wrote in an email.

Efforts to reach the police union and their attorney were not immediately successful on Wednesday.

Oakland freelance journalist Darwin BondGraham first tweeted the news. 

The move comes less than a week after a federal court-appointed monitor overseeing the Oakland Police Department had harsh words of the chief's assessments of what happened when officers fatally shot a 31-year-old Joshua Pawlik on March 11, 2018, according to internal documents released under a new police transparency law.

In a stinging rebuke, Robert Warshaw disagreed with Chief Anne Kirkpatrick's conclusions stemming from Pawlik's death. The man had been either drunk or sleeping and was lying in between two houses in the 900 block of 40th Street and was holding a gun. Police said he didn't obey 12 commands to drop his weapon, which is when they fired and killed him. 

Kirkpatrick, the department's Executive Force Review Board, and the District Attorney all found that the officers involved acted reasonably and used their weapons because they felt they were in imminent danger. “I accept the analysis and unanimous findings…that the lethal force used in this case was within the law and policy,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

VIDEO: Body camera video of fatal shooting of Joshua Pawlik

Warshaw emphatically disagreed, saying that the investigators took the officers’ words at face value and he recommended harsher punishments for all but one of the officers involved. 

Warshaw said that Kirkpatrick’s assessment was “both disappointing and myopic."

In a four-page letter, Warshaw said that it appears that the Internal Affairs Unit, the Executive Force Review Board, comprised of police commanders, and the chief did not use any of the video provided at the scene to challenge the officers' assertions that Pawlik had woken up and was about to aim at them.

He wrote that Pawlik was apparently unconscious and was on the ground between two houses with a handgun. Despite that, Warshaw said, there was "no information Mr. Pawlik was an immediate threat to anyone or had harmed anyone at that point." 

Pawlik eventually woke up and was "moving minimally," Warshaw noted. "He was a live human being - and any reasonable officer should not have expected him to remain perfectly still."

Warshaw noted that Pawlik's movements, seen on a video professionally enhanced twice by police, "do not coincide with the movements to which the officers claim they reacted." 

Warshaw also said that the investigators, “both in their questioning and analysis, failed to address the inconsistences between the officers' statements and the video evidence. That discrepancy, he noted, was whether Pawlik moved his right hand either a few inches or up to two feet. 

"The questioning in both investigations was deficient, non-invasive, and replete with leading questions that served as attempts to support the justification of the officers' actions," Warshaw wrote.

Warshaw has broad powers over the department and reports to a federal judge. Federal monitoring of the department has lasted now for 16 years.