Oakland, CA — More than a year after four cops publicly executed Joshua Pawlik, the Oakland Police Commission recommended that the officers involved be fired. The commission cited the officers’ use of a light which was shined into the sleeping man’s face to deliberately confuse and blind him before they killed him as the defining moment in their decision. Now, as the city decides what to do with the killer cops, the taxpayers of Oakland will pay $1.4 million to the mother of the victim.
According to KTVU, 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.
Kelly Pawlik, the mother of the man executed by police, will receive the settlement.
“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?”
History shows us that this will likely not happen.
Since officers Brandon Hraiz, William Berger and Craig Tanaka as well as Sgt. Francisco Negrete, all opened fire on Pawlik that day — killing him — they all continued to enjoy their paychecks and jobs with the Oakland police department. The officers are still reportedly receiving paychecks but were reported to lose an important hearing in their termination appeal earlier this month.
The Oakland Police Commission also voted in February to fire former Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick over her handling of the incident because she cleared the cops who killed Pawlik. The move to fire the chief was supported by Mayor Libby Schaaf, according to KQED.
According to KTVU, the commissioners, who comprise a civilian-led body to oversee the police department, wrote that termination was the recommended “appropriate discipline” for all the officers. In addition, the commission recommended a demotion for Lt. Alan Yu, who was found by Oakland police superiors as well as the department’s federal monitor, to have “failed to properly perform his duties” as the incident commander that day.
Naturally, the police union disagreed and called the move to fire four cops who executed a sleeping and disoriented man “politically motivated.”
“The commission’s decision is obviously born from a politically driven need to prosecute police officers regardless of the facts,” Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officer’s Association, said.
The incident in question unfolded on March 11, 2018, as police responded to a call about an unconscious man lying between two homes in West Oakland. That man was Josh Pawlik and as he slept on the ground, he held a small .22 caliber pistol.
Pawlik never had a history of violence and his family and friends said he had the pistol for protection only.
Instead of simply walking up to Pawlik and taking the gun from him as he slept, police responded with a militarized unit consisting of a dozen cops and an armored vehicle called a Bearcat.
As the video shows, the officers mounted the Bearcat and got into shooting positions before shining a bright light into Pawlik’s face and yelling at him to “wake up” and “drop the gun.” Because he was clearly passed out, Pawlik didn’t immediately begin following the officers’ commands. Also, he was blinded and confused with the spotlight shining in his face and likely had no idea it was even cops talking to him.
Pawlik appears to try to get up but is having trouble, likely groggy from whatever caused him to pass out there in the first place. A few more seconds would pass as cops barked orders at him before four officers would open fire with their AR-15s.
Police got into position at 7:04 p.m., by 7:06 p.m., Pawlik was dead.
After they killed him, police claimed that Pawlik gave them no other option but to shoot. However, the video does not back this up.
“The committee does not find persuasive officer testimony that Mr. Pawlik lifted or moved or pointed the handgun in a threatening manner toward officers,” the commissioners wrote. “The …video clearly shows that Mr. Pawlik did not lift, move or point the handgun in a threatening manner toward the officers.”
What’s more, the commissioners pointed out that the officers were waiting for their chance to kill him, referring to Berger’s comment to Phillips of “If that gun moves….bag him.”
Indeed, according to the now-settled lawsuit, attorneys correctly alleged that the police could have safely disarmed him because he was disoriented and not posing any danger to the officers.
“Nevertheless, an armored, military grade vehicle was sent to the scene and multiple officers pointed AR-15 assault rifles at the unconscious man behind a bullet proof vehicle. Mr. Pawlik finally began to slowly regain consciousness and made some slight movement as he acclimated himself to his surroundings, prompting the officers to unleash a barrage of gunfire.”
For those who recall, just down the road from where Pawlik was executed, Willie McCoy, an aspiring 20-year-old rapper, was also executed as he slept. In February of 2019, McCoy was found sleeping in a Taco Bell parking lot. He also chose to own a gun for protection. And for this, six cops opened fire on him, killing him instantly.