Pamela Price campaigned for DA on a platform of holding officers accountable for misconduct, including deadly use of force. Credit: Amir Aziz

Alameda County police officers and sheriff’s deputies who killed eight individuals while on duty in past incidents could newly face murder, manslaughter, or other criminal charges, according to a press release issued by District Attorney Pamela Price today.

“I promised accountability,” said Price, who campaigned on a platform of holding police accountable for misconduct, including in-custody deaths. “This unit and its work are the start of the reckoning Alameda County has asked for holding people accountable for their misconduct.”

The cases will be investigated by a new Public Accountability Unit within the district attorney’s office. The DA’s office declined to comment further about the incidents they’ll look into because they are now considered pending investigations.

The cases include two controversial Oakland police killings that happened in 2007 and 2008.

On Dec. 31, 2007, Andrew Wahnee Moppin-Buckskin fled a traffic stop on foot near 46th Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland. An Oakland police sergeant spotted the young man hiding between a car and a building. Two rookie officers, Hector Jimenez and Jessica Borello, arrived and commanded Moppin-Buckskin to surrender. Twelve seconds later, they shot and killed him. They later told investigators they couldn’t see his hands. Moppin-Buckskin was unarmed.

Former District Attorney Thomas Orloff’s office reviewed the case, which was investigated by OPD’s homicide unit, and declined to press charges against Jimenez and Borello. However, the DA’s review took six years to complete.

Officer Jimenez returned to work a few days after the shooting, and on July 25, 2008, he and his partner Joel Aylworth were trying to stop a car that was speeding and swerving on Fruitvale Avenue at 3:40 in the morning. The car suddenly stopped, and 27-year-old Mack “Jody” Woodfox got out and began to run away from the officers. Jimenez shot Woodfox twice in the back and once in the arm. Woodfox was unarmed.

Yellow evidence markers show where shell casings from OPD Officer Hector Jimenez’s gun landed after he shot Jody Woodfox after a 2008 vehicle pursuit. Credit: Oakland Police Department obtained via Public Records Act request

Then DA Orloff’s team also declined to press charges against Jimenez for killing Woodfox, but OPD’s internal affairs investigators found that Jimenez violated department rules when he used deadly force. The DA’s report on the Woodfox shooting was also inexplicably delayed for six years.

Civil rights attorney John Burris represented Woodfox and Moppin-Buckskin’s families in civil lawsuits against Oakland. Burris told The Oaklandside that he recommended Price reopen both cases. His law firm also represented the families of two other men killed by Alameda County law enforcement whose cases are among the eight Price will reexamine.

“I initiated this because I’ve always been dissatisfied with the resolutions. I’ve always thought this was a murder of both of these kids,” Burris said. “I sent Pamela Price a package of materials and asked her to conduct a reexamination to see if the officers should be prosecuted for manslaughter or murder.”

Oakland police and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office investigators at the scene of the Woodfox shootings on Jan. 25, 2008. Credit: Oakland Police Department obtained via Public Records Act request

The Oakland Police Department said in a statement that they are “providing the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office with the information it has requested pertaining to these investigations.”

The Oakland Police Officers Association vigorously defended Jimenez after the Woodfox shooting. In 2011, attorneys working for the police union were able to convince an arbitrator to overturn the department’s decision to fire Jimenez for killing Woodfox, and he returned to OPD with back pay. 

The city’s inability to fire Jimenez was flagged by an outside investigator working for the judge overseeing OPD’s reform program as one example of shoddy investigative work by the police department and inadequate preparation by the city attorney to defend disciplinary actions against officers.

OPOA representatives did not respond to a request for comment from The Oaklandside about Price’s decision to examine both the Mopping-Buckskin and Woodfox cases.

Along with Jim Chanin, another attorney who represented the Woodfox family in their civil lawsuit, Burris was able to find two civilian witnesses who told them that Woodfox’s hands were visible as he ran from the officers. In a letter Burris sent to Price on Jan. 12, he wrote that both witnesses were “discouraged from giving their statements to the police investigators” back in 2008.

Jimenez is still employed as a police officer by the city.

Price said in her press release that she’s requested evidence from five other law enforcement agencies regarding six other in-custody deaths her office will reexamine.

They include:

Price’s press release mentioned the killing of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers as part of the context for her decision. 

“We have seen many thoughts and prayers being bandied about the police murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. The people of Tennessee want accountability – and so do the people of Alameda County,” Price said in her statement.

“Of all the cases that I’ve had, this is the one that has stuck with me the most,” Burris said about today’s news that the Woodfox shooting will get another review. “This one was flat our murder.”

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.