BERKELEY, Calif. - A Berkeley police watchdog group says it's concerned about an incident last month in which it says a police officer used a less-lethal weapon to shoot a black man on his knees with his empty hands outstretched while four other officers surrounded the man.
Berkeley Copwatch spokeswoman Andrea Pritchett said a video taken by a bystander of the incident in front of U.S. Liquors at 2997 Sacramento St., near Ashby Avenue, at about 5:15 p.m. on March 14 indicates that the officer fired a rubber bullet at the man from a distance of about 12 feet and struck him in the torso.
Pritchett said the man collapsed in pain and was quickly surrounded and handcuffed by the other four Berkeley police officers on the scene.
According to Pritchett, the bystander said the man was taken away from the scene in an ambulance.
Pritchett said Copwatch was unable to get the man's name from Berkeley police so it hasn't been able to provide the bystander's video to him so he can use it in his own defense.
Copwatch said it will conduct an independent investigation of the incident in collaboration with attorney Adante Pointer, an associate of Oakland civil rights lawyer John Burris.
Responding to the video, Pointer said in a statement, "We don't know the full picture, but based on what I see this is someone who has complied, was on his knees and was not a threat. Why would officers use that type of force?"
Pointer said, "At that range, these munitions can cause injury or even death. Berkeley police need to account for this behavior by officers and an independent investigation of this incident is definitely warranted."
Berkeley police spokesman Officer Byron White identified the man as 36-year-old William Dean Brown and said he was armed with a knife.
White said officers offered to provide medical attention to Brown but he declined it.
Police records indicate that Brown was arrested on misdemeanor charges of exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a firearm, obstructing a police officer, disorderly conduct and intoxication of drugs or alcohol.
White said the Alameda County District Attorney's Office filed charges against Brown but he's no longer in custody.
Pritchett said Wednesday that she thinks the force the officer used on Brown wasn't necessary because "he didn't pose a threat" to police.