Official: Sacramento police legally killed mentally ill man

AP News
Posted: Jan 27, 2017 4:44 PM
Official: Sacramento police legally killed mentally ill man

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento police acted legally when they shot and killed a mentally ill man after video showed the officers first tried to hit him with their squad car, prosecutors said Friday.

Joseph Mann was shot 14 times in July.

He threatened officers and several other people with a knife, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said in its investigative report of the police killing.

The report said Mann was acting aggressively in July while under the influence of methamphetamine, and that witnesses also thought Mann had a gun.

"Mann slashed his knife in the direction of officers and threatened to use it to cause them bodily harm, including yelling that he was going to 'gut' them," the report said. "Mann held his knife in a threatening manner and turned directly towards two officers who were in close proximity trying to disarm and arrest him."

The officers shot him 14 times, moments after dashboard video shows that they tried to strike him with their vehicle. Police found a knife but no gun after Mann was killed.

Black Lives Matter spokeswoman Tanya Faison said her group was "completely disgusted" with the prosecutors' decision to clear the officers of wrongdoing.

She said the video showed Mann was "hunted down" and that it "should have been enough to have some repercussions for these officers."

The prosecutors' report said the officer who was driving tried to knock Mann down with his vehicle to disarm him and as a way of stopping him.

The lawyer for officers John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, Judith Olbert, praised the report.

"We're grateful that the district attorney took a very thorough and extensive look at this so that they can continue with their careers and their lives unmarked," she said. "We've said from the beginning that they were acting properly."

Mann's shooting set off protests, as did the April shooting of Dazion Flenaugh, another mentally ill man, also in Sacramento.

The district attorney's office said earlier this month that police also acted legally in that shooting because Flenaugh rushed officers while carrying two large kitchen knives.

Video released this month in that shooting shows an officer calling Flenaugh a "freak" and advising a bystander to "just hit him with a baseball bat."

Mann's family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, police department and the two officers. They had filed a petition asking prosecutors to charge the officers with murder.

"It is disheartening but it is not surprising. It's the world we live in as black people," said John Burris, an attorney for Mann's family, said of the district attorney's decision. One of the officers is white and one is Latino and both officers have mixed-race children, Odbert has said, denying that race was an issue.

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Burris added: "It's sort of a routine notion here that the police receive protection from the district attorney...even though the conduct is as egregious as conduct can be when officers try to hit someone with a car."

The city revised its use of force policy as one result of the recent shootings, he said, "so from the family's point of view the case has had some positive benefits."

Mann was a college graduate who had worked as a counselor with the state corrections department and as a grocery store clerk, another family attorney said. But he deteriorated into mental illness and was previously convicted of breaking and entering, theft and resisting arrest.

In recent years he had been living on the streets and struggling with illegal drugs, family members said.

The case shows the challenges police face in working with those suffering from mental illness, Sacramento police said.

The department "remains committed to working with our partners to find meaningful solutions to the challenges of dealing with those in crisis," Interim Chief Brian Louie said in a statement.