Last month, the Oakland Police Department took the first disciplinary action in five years against an officer involved in the shooting of a suspect.
Officer Hector Jimenez was terminated for the fatal shooting of Mack “Jody” Woodfox in July 2008. Woodfox a 27-year-old Oakland man, was unarmed. Jimenez, a rookie officer who graduated from the academy in February 2007, was involved with another officer in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Andrew Moppin-Buckskin on New Year’s Day, 2008. Moppin was also unarmed. Both incidents occurred in the flatlands of East Oakland, where tensions between the police and the community abound.
Police officials said Jimenez’s shooting of Woodfox violated the department’s use of force policies because the 27-year-old was unarmed and posed no threat to the officer. Jimenez was cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of Moppin-Buckskin. In both incidents, Jimenez believed the men were reaching for waistbands as if to draw a weapon.
According to statistics submitted by the Oakland Police to Civilian Police Review Board, between 2004 and 2008 there were 45 officer-involved shootings. The overwhelming majority were men of color: 36 were black and 7 were Latino. None of the victims were white.
Notably, in none of these instances was an officer found to be in violation of departmental policy, and no officers have been prosecuted for the shooting of a suspect. Jimenez’s shooting of Moppin stands out in this regard.
Both the Moppin and Woodfox families have filed multi-million dollar civil rights suits against Officer Jimenez, the City of Oakland and the police department.
Police shootings are a particularly sensitive issue in Oakland at the moment. Former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle is set to stand trial for the murder of Oscar Grant in October. A wrongful death suit filed by the family of Gary King Jr, who was shot in September 2007 by Sgt. Patrick Gonzales of the Oakland Police, will also go to trial in September.
Ali Winston is a freelance writer based in Berkeley, California. Earlier this year Winston wrote “Targeting Another Generation of Black Men” for ColorLines Magazine.