The Sacramento County district attorney on Friday cleared three sheriff’s deputies of legal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an armed black man after an attempted traffic stop in October 2015.
On the same day, Sacramento city officials announced they are hiring a former federal civil rights prosecutor to review fatal officer-involved shootings of two homeless men that occurred this year.
The three instances of officer-involved shootings have been at the center of local calls for changes in how law enforcement uses deadly force with African Americans and mentally ill individuals.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said that deputies shot Adriene Ludd 13 times after he pointed an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine at officers. The District Attorney’s Office ruled that the deputies “shot Ludd in self-defense” after he attempted to ambush them.
“But for his gun being temporarily inoperable, it is almost certain that Ludd would have killed or seriously wounded” the deputies, the report states.
The District Attorney’s Office investigates all county officer-involved fatal shootings to determine if police acted legally. The DA’s Office is in the middle of reviewing the Sacramento police shootings of Dazion Flenaugh in April and Joseph Mann in July – the two cases for which the city is hiring an independent investigator.
Police have legal latitude to use deadly force if they think their lives or bystander lives are in jeopardy.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnball said the department conducts an extensive “process of review,” internally as well, and is “happy to see the progress through this, to the conclusion of this portion of the investigation.”
Activists protested the Ludd shooting at a Board of Supervisors meeting in July, calling it a case of excessive force. On Friday, Mark Harris of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, an organization advocating for police reforms, said that the district attorney’s decision was “sad” but “not surprising.”
Community leaders have used the three incidents as examples in their call for greater transparency, accountability and a greater emphasis on nonlethal tactics in the Sacramento Police Department and surrounding jurisdictions.
The consultant chosen by the city of Sacramento, Michael Gennaco, will review the July 11 shooting of Mann, a mentally ill homeless man who was shot 14 times by two officers during a frenetic one-minute encounter in which the officers first attempted to hit Mann with their vehicle. Mann was acting erratically and had a knife before the deadly confrontation, according to police and witnesses.
Gennaco will also examine the April 8 shooting of Flenaugh, a homeless bipolar man who led police on an extensive chase after becoming agitated and fleeing from the back seat of a police cruiser. Flenaugh armed himself with a pickax, then discarded it for two kitchen knives before being shot by three police officers on a south Sacramento street.
Sacramento Police and a witness describe what happened after Dazion Flenaugh broke free from custody and evaded police by jumping into south Sacramento backyards. Officers said he was holding two knives and threatened them.
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In the Mann case, an attorney for the officers said they acted appropriately and used force to protect the public from harm.
Robert Mann, the older brother of Joseph Mann, called for the officers to face criminal prosecution.
“The review further reflects our effort to be open and perform an objective review of police officer actions,” said City Manager John Shirey in a statement.
Shirey said findings from the review would be made public.
Councilman Larry Carr, who is leading an effort to craft new policies on when officers should use deadly force, said he believed the outside review would help “uncover the truth ... two police officer shootings in a short period kind of require that we take a look at our policies and processes and procedures.”
But Harris expressed anger with the city’s decision to hire an outside consultant to review the two Sacramento Police Department shootings without seeking public input.
“I think it’s just bad business ... to welcome him to Sacramento as a fait accompli,” Harris said. “He hasn’t been vetted to our satisfaction ... They should solicit input from the community, the very people who have been talking about these issues in Sacramento.”
Gennaco said his independent review, expected to start in early November, is “intended to take a look at the Police Department through using these two incidents sort of as pointers with regards to how deadly force incidents are reviewed, the policies that guide officers in regards to deadly force, training and any other issues that become evident.”
The review will not “duplicate the criminal investigation” but will examine both the actions of the individual officers involved in the shootings as well as larger tactical and procedural policies in the department as a whole, he said.
Gennaco said that in examining the actions of the officers who fired shots, his examination would be “broader than the district attorney” review focused on the legality of officers’ actions at the moment shots were fired.
“We will look at the decision-making that predates the decision to fire,” said Gennaco. “We will also be looking at the department’s response.”
Gennaco has conducted similar reviews of police departments throughout the country. In 2016, he has reviewed use-of-force cases at the Oxnard Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Department and Denver Sheriff’s Department, according to a résumé attached to Shirey’s email. It also lists Gennaco as an ongoing consultant with the Anaheim, Inglewood and Pasadena police departments in Southern California.