Patterico's Pontifications

1/12/2007

Transcript of Board of Rights Findings Released in Devin Brown Case

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:33 pm



[This post, like all posts at this site, reflects my personal opinion. I do not speak on behalf of my employer on this site, as my disclaimer on the sidebar clearly states. This post is based purely on published reports. I have absolutely no inside knowledge of the facts of this case. Any comments that disparage me in relation to my job will be summarily deleted.]

Steven Garcia, the officer who shot and killed Devin Brown after Brown backed a stolen Toyota Camry towards him, has released the transcript of the Board of Rights’s findings exonerating him of any wrongdoing. You can read the 19-page document here. (H/t Robert P.)

It is easy to see why Officer Garcia released the transcript. Even lefty Kevin Roderick says that it “makes a good case for Garcia.”

The Captain who read the Board’s unanimous findings stated that, after a visit to the scene, “We were all amazed that Officer Garcia was able to avoid being struck and killed or being seriously injured by the Camry.” He said that the Board members “could easily relate to the fear and anguish Garcia must have felt.” Not only did numerous officers testify that they believed that Officer Garcia had been in mortal danger, but a civilian witness testified: “If that police hadn’t jumped out of the way, he would have been hit.”

Officer Garcia testified that he feared for his life, and the Board found Officer Garcia’s testimony to be genuine and credible. His testimony was corroborated by testimony from an internationally renowned expert on human reactions to stressful situations. That expert agreed with Garcia that he stopped shooting once he perceived the threat to be over.

The Department had admitted in its opening that the first 5 shots were in policy, but had argued that the shooting occurred in two volleys, and that the second volley of 5 shots was out of policy. The Board reviewed extensive evidence, and found that the entire incident happened in four seconds, and that the shots were fired in less than two seconds, in a single volley.

Full details are in the extended entry.

The unanimous decision was rendered by Capt. Bruce Crosley, who stated that the Board had reviewed extensive evidence and believed that it was “the entity with the most information regarding the facts and circumstances of this case.”

Capt. Crosley noted that many of the facts of the case were undisputed. After a pursuit (during which 13-year-old Devin Brown was driving a stolen Camry), the Camry was stopped. The passenger fled, leaving the right front passenger door open. The tires on the Camry screeched. Devin Brown then backed the Camry toward Officer Garcia, who was standing at the right side of the police car behind the Camry.

The open passenger door struck a light standard, and the Camry collided with the right side of the police vehicle. Officer Garcia moved to avoid being struck, and fired 10 shots toward Brown from the right-rear and right side of the Camry.

Everyone agreed that the officer “had no way of knowing the age or ethnicity of subject Brown prior to the incident.”

The Board heard from three civilian witnesses. The Board found that the testimony of two of them was not credible, as “their statements were inconsistent and conflicted with the physical evidence at the scene of the incident.”

The Board found credible the testimony of a third witness, whose statements were supported by physical evidence. This witness

was also supportive of Garcia’s assertion, that the car driven by subject Brown was going to strike the officer, and he stated the Camry back up fast as if he was, quote, smashing the gas, end quote. He also stated, quote, “If that police hadn’t jumped out of the way, he would have been hit”, end quote.

Officers who witnessed the incident agreed that the car appeared to be backing towards Garcia, who appeared to be in danger.

The Board found that at the beginning of the incident, Officer Garcia was less than 1 1/2 car lengths from the rear of the Camry. As the car backed up, the open passenger door collided with the light post, a collision that “had a negligible effect on the car’s speed.” From the time Brown began revving the engine to the time that the car crashed into the front of the police vehicle, it was only one-and-a-half seconds. Capt. Crosley stated:

The Camry, at that point, was only about 6 feet from the officer and it was traveling about 12 miles an hour — that speed may have sounded slow, but it equates to a full car’s length per second.

Incidentally, on the way home tonight, I heard an ad for a car boasting that the car could go from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 5.3 seconds. If a car could do that in 5 seconds, that would be an acceleration of 12 mph per second — meaning that, if you are going 12 miles per hour after one to one-and-a-half seconds, you are going about as fast as you can possibly go. This, and the screeching tires preceding the backing up, are both consistent with the civilian’s statement that Devin Brown had seemed to be “smashing the gas.”

Officer Garcia testified that he had been in fear for his life. “The Board found the testimony of Officer Garcia to be genuine and credible.” Officer Garcia “felt he had made a major error by not anticipating that the car was coming to him and that it was likely going to cost him his life.” In the next 2 1/2 seconds after coming to that conclusion, he moved to avoid the vehicle, but felt it was tracking him.

After smashing the right front portion of the police car, the car continued backwards and hit the police car’s right front door. Metal ground against metal, as the Camry scraped against the side of the police car. It stopped 20 feet later, and then rolled forward about four feet.

The Board found that the entire incident lasted only four seconds. Capt. Crosley said that “the entire incident unfolded very rapidly in a relatively confined area.”

The entire incident, from screeching tires to pole impact, to collision with the police vehicle, to hitting the police car and slamming it[s door] closed and then sliding against the police vehicle, to the beginning of the shots fired by Officer Garcia, to the car stopping and then rolling forward and stopping again as the officer stopped firing, occurred in approximately 4 seconds.

Wow. Count off four seconds in your head as you try to picture all that activity happening. Keep doing it until you make the action go fast enough to fit within the time frame, and you’ll get some idea of how fast this happened.

Reenactments showed the 10 shots being fired in 1.8 seconds. Capt. Crosley said: “That’s 1,001, 1,002 and it’s over.”

Here’s the takeaway line:

The field trip to the intersection of 83rd and Western then allowed these concepts to be placed in their actual context. That trip was perhaps one of the most dramatic and revealing portions of the case for the three board members. It showed all of us how close the vehicles were and how short the distances involved were. We were all amazed that Officer Garcia was able to avoid being struck and killed or being seriously injured by the Camry, driven by Devin Brown, as it rapidly backed in his direction.

Capt. Crosley added:

The board members, having stood in the precise place where Officer Garcia was standing, with vehicles in the approximate positions where they were that night, could easily relate to the fear and anguish Garcia must have felt on the [night of] February 6, 2005.

But the takeaway point for the L.A. Times tomorrow will likely be this: the Board’s finding that when the first shot was fired, the Camry was traveling at only about 1 mph. Capt. Crosley said that “this, however, does not tell the whole story” due to several factors that were discussed by a defense expert, who testified that there was a lag time between the time that Officer Garcia made the decision to shoot, and the time that he perceived that he was out of danger and was able to make the decision to stop shooting.

The expert was named Dr. Lewinski. Capt. Crosley described as him as “an internationally recognized expert on the topic of human performance in high stress encounters.”

Dr. Lewinski testified that it likely took about 1/4 of a second for the officer to perceive the car backing towards him, and another 1/2 second to decide to shoot. Numerous factors could have caused the officer to believe that the car was traveling faster than it was, including the sounds of the incident, which included “screeching tires, the collision of the Camry door with the pole, [and] the grinding of metal against metal as the Camry slid against the police vehicle.” As Capt. Crosley explained it, Dr. Lewinski had testified that these sounds “would all increase Garcia’s feeling of distress and further inhibit the decisionmaking process.”

Other factors that would have impeded the decisionmaking process would include the low light level, Officer Garcia’s fear for his own life, and his lateral movement to avoid danger and seek cover. As Capt. Crosley said:

In summarizing, Dr. Lewinski viewed the brief two-plus seconds periods following the Camry striking the police vehicle until the shooting was over as being eroded by nearly one second as the Camry continues toward Garcia before the first shot is fired, followed by a motor response in which the officer’s trigger pull was essentially a programmed reaction, and a .67 second delay from the time he perceived the threat was over until he was able to stop pulling the trigger. During that decision to stop shooting delay, as many as 3 additional rounds would’ve been fired.

All of this was compounded by the other contributing delay factors, including, the officer’s effort to escape from the path of the vehicle, the noise and confusion of the multiple collisions, the low-light conditions, the fear of being killed, the fear of a loss of control, which reduced Garcia’s ability to detect changes in the threat status, the officer’s altered perception of the Camry’s backing speed as he moved laterally to avoid being struck, and the delaying impact of any [or] all of these factors in altering the officer’s focus and thereby slowing his responses.

All of the perceptions, distractions, decisions, and reactions required of Officer Garcia in this situation reasonably appear to account for the time periods involved and provide the explanation as to why the shots initiated as the officer was avoiding the backing vehicle as it closed on him, actually striking the backing vehicle as it closed on him, actually striking the right rear and right side of the vehicle before Garcia was able to process the fact that he was out of danger and to disengage firing on hi[s] target, the driver.

The person who sent this to me also forwarded it to Patrick McGreevy of the L.A. Times, as well as the paper’s Readers’ Representative. He listed some of the findings I describe above and said: “It’ll be amusing to see what of the above you omit in tomorrow’s paper.” I agree. It will be more amusing still to see what the editors emphasize, and what they bury — and whether the paper’s web site will provide a link to the findings themselves.

More tomorrow, once the article appears.

P.S. Didn’t Erwin Chemerinsky say, only today:

Perhaps there is a legitimate basis for the board’s conclusion that Garcia did nothing wrong, but the public will never know.

Heh. Does this guy ever get tired of being wrong?

I will say, though, that I agree with his central policy premise: Board of Rights hearings should be open to the public. A reserve police police officer argued with me about that today, and I expect that law enforcement generally might also disagree. But I think that Erwin has it right when he says:

This is not information about an officer’s personal life. This is about how a public employee is performing on the job in the exercise of an enormously important responsibility: the use of deadly force.

Look at it this way: here, it appears that the best evidence shows that the city made a huge mistake paying $1.5 million to this criminal child’s family. Doesn’t the public have a right to know the facts behind that assertion?

24 Responses to “Transcript of Board of Rights Findings Released in Devin Brown Case”

  1. 1st o.O

    or there’s been some deleting :)

    I thought police policy was to unload your weapon? Even if it’s not, shooting until the thing you are shooting at stops seems good policy to me.

    Would I shoot someone that I thought was trying to kill me? duh of course, I can’t blame him for doing the same

    Lord Nazh (285c90)

  2. Here’s where I troll. We don’t pay the police to protect their lives. We pay them to protect us. The officer jumped out of the way and was not hit. He would have been justified to shoot if the vehicle then speeded away and became a danger to the public. Not before.

    nk (947b03)

  3. nk,

    As a legal matter, you have it exactly backwards, as you surely must know. (I assume your comment goes to what the law should be, in your opinion, and not to what the law is. If I’m wrong, then I’m worried for you.) If the vehicle had simply sped away, this officer would be prosecuted if he had fired at it.

    But firing at it when it came at him? The Board, at least, said that was justified.

    Did you read the transcript?

    And as to your comment: if I’m a policeman, I say I don’t give a good goddamn what you think you’re paying me for, when my life is in jeopardy. I will defend myself.

    But I guess the right to self-defense applies only to elderly “mythic” women in Atlanta, not to anyone wearing a badge — at least, if you’re a defense attorney.

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  4. This reeks. I don’t think a citizen is safe from any cop nowadays. The insane drug wars have bent the cops into enemy’s of the people who pay their wages and give them authority.

    RJN (e12f22)

  5. This had to have been a nightmare for Officer Garcia. If he’s still a police officer, will he react as quickly the next time or will he hesitate because he doesn’t want to go through something like this again? If so, and if he hesitates, he or one of his fellow officers might be the ones to die next time.

    DRJ (51a774)

  6. if I’m a policeman, I say I don’t give a good goddamn what you think you’re paying me for, when my life is in jeopardy. I will defend myself.

    After a lot of consideration of how to remark on that, let me ask:

    Why is that “only if you’re a policeman’?

    Unix-Jedi (59a051)

  7. Patterico, #6:

    Actually the police have the right to shoot a fleeing violent felon (in this case attempted murder) in order to protect the public from further violence by him.

    If I misread the transcript and the officer fired as the car was coming towards him, then I am wrong on my main point.

    If the officer fired after he had jumped out of the way and the Camry had hit the police car, then that attempted murder had failed and absent further imminent danger to the officer or to the public he should have refrained from firing.

    nk (77d95e)

  8. what i want to know is…
    1. why are the minutes of this board secret unless the officer decides to release them? we the community are paying their salaries, benefits, overtime, pensions, when a member of the community gets shot by a cop, shouldn’t the inquiry be open and transparent?
    2. why is it called a “board of ‘rights'”? we’re told that driving is a privilege. hunting and fishing are privileges that can be taken away for fish & game violations. being a police officer is surely a privilege. how much hubris does it take before a privileged officer being paid to protect us forms the belief that he or she has the “right” to beat people up, to tase them, to shoot them to death? wouldn’t board of “inquiry” or board of “discipline” be a better choice?
    these questions relate to the community’s attitude toward its police, and they don’t improve that attitude. i believe that there are good police officers out there, but the good ones are tarred with the same brush of secrecy and police entitlement, so when one of the good ones gets shot by a worthless criminal (a happenstance that was chronicled in this blog in 2006) she is cheated of the full measure of support and outrage against the criminal she deserves. ordinary citizens, seeking only to remain disengaged from criminal violence and criminal police violence, just shrug and say, well, it’s a jungle out there, sometimes the lion eats the warthog, sometimes the lion falls off a cliff chasing the warthog, c’est la vie.

    assistant devil's advocate (d057ce)

  9. Even a policeman has the right to self-defense — DUH! Donning a police uniform does not negate his basic human rights… remember “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”

    Dubya (c16726)

  10. Two points, one,for some people, a policeman will always be in the wrong, no matter the facts. Two, Very few people in this country today ever face the stress of an immediate life threatening situation, yet think can critique those that have (ie. soldiers, policemen). I do not mean to “chickenhawk” these people, but in these cases one only has time to react, there is no rational thought process going on at all. Second guessing in the comfort of your executive computer chair, with all the time in the world is all to easy.

    James Piper (f7ff9f)

  11. ada: If the name of the the board is so important to you, might I suggest you call it the Board of Monday Morning Quarterbacking? You are one cynical dude when it comes to the cops, they seem to be automatically bad or corrupt in your view. 99% of Law Enforcement (in California at any rate) are well qualified, trained and act with integrity. Yet you speak as though the good ones are a rarity. You are way off base, devil’s advocacy or not.

    Labcatcher (dfbf05)

  12. Excuse me; but has it occured to anyone that a thirteen year old, might not been in complete control of the car? Nor are thirteen year olds noted for their deccision making.

    Was officer Garcia, able to ascertain whether the car was driven by an juvenile, as opposed to an adult?

    [From my post (did you read it?): “Everyone agreed that the officer “had no way of knowing the age or ethnicity of subject Brown prior to the incident.'” And the transcript makes clear (did you read it?) that the Board of Rights wasn’t looking at Devin Brown’s actions, but rather Officer Garcia’s. — P]

    Michael D Giles (e14e80)

  13. If DA Cooley had filed charges against Officer Garcia, a downtown jury would find him guilty regardless of the evidence.

    Clark Baker (337440)

  14. Police firearms should contain sealed digital cameras activated by the trigger.

    Al (2e2489)

  15. […] After giving repeated front-page coverage to the Devin Brown shooting and its aftermath, the L.A. Times has buried news that paints the officer’s actions in a sympathetic light. Yesterday, Officer Steven Garcia, who had been charged in a Board of Rights proceeding with misconduct relating to the shooting, released a transcript setting forth the Board of Rights’s compelling rationale for finding him not guilty of misconduct. I reported this last night, and summarized the extensive findings. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » L.A. Times Buries Story on Transcript of Devin Brown Findings (421107)

  16. Al (#14): Do you even own a firearm, let alone a Service (type) Pistol? It’s enough to worry that the damn thing is always going to work, let alone have to worry that the “gun-camera” is loaded and working.
    The great thing about this situation is that Devin Brown will NEVER be a recidivist statistic.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  17. Piper #10, has framed the issue for us trolls, although his conclusion is on the other side:

    1. Are policemen soldiers with soldiers’ rules of engagement?
    2. Must a police officer, having avoided an attempt on his life, wait for the attempted murderer to either try again or try to get away and possibly hurt other innocent people before he can shoot him?
    3. Do the police have a duty to be protective and even solicitous of the lives and rights of people who have tried to kill them?

    I would say no the first and yes to the second and third.

    I, personally, realized, almost a quarter century ago, that I did not have the disciplined aggressiveness to shoot someone when I had to but not to shoot anyone when I did not have to and worked very hard to make sure that I lived a life that did not require me to ever be in a position to shoot anyone.

    I reread the transcript. It seems that the officer started firing while the vehicle was moving toward him but the lethal shots were fired after the officer was out of harm’s way. To me, the officer, would have been a hero if he had stopped firing, pulled the little s__t out of the car, and used his gunbelt (not his gun) on the little s__t’s bottom until it was as blue as the officer’s uniform pants.

    nk (4cd0c2)

  18. nk: As the transcript of the BoR hearing shows, the shooting (all shots) happened in a matter of seconds (?4?). The first shots were with the car moving towards him. The second set of shots while the car was still in motion, in close proximity, and was still considered to be a threat to life and safety. It’s not like the car was half-a-block away heading for Pomona. It was an “eminent” threat to the life and safety of the officer, and to possible others in the immediate vicinity. This shooting was within policy, and the BoR decision affirms that. There was no violation. End of Story!
    BTW, in the interest of full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a police officer, and have no connection with the LE community.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  19. Patterco said:

    “And as to your comment: if I’m a policeman, I say I don’t give a good goddamn what you think you’re paying me for, when my life is in jeopardy. I will defend myself.”

    Actually society has to right to decide for police (as for others) what it will permit in the way of self-defense. Personally I think the standard should be stricter for police.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  20. Another Drew #18,

    I confessed that I was trolling. If had commented like a lawyer (which I am) it would have gone like this:

    NK: We never have a way of knowing what really happened that’s why we have laws and rules that define our respective duties; procedures that allow both parties a fair hearing with the opportunity to present evidence and arguments; standards of proof; allocations of the burden of proof; (and jury instructions).

    Response: Gee, NK, thank you for telling us what we already know. Who needs (yawn) Ambien when you comment here.

    In a more serious tone, we hear a lot that “the police put their lives on the line” to protects us. My views as to what extent the police should risk their lives are in my previous comments.

    nk (32c481)

  21. why are the minutes of this board secret unless the officer decides to release them? we the community are paying their salaries, benefits, overtime, pensions, when a member of the community gets shot by a cop, shouldn’t the inquiry be open and transparent?

    Ass’t Devil’s advocate,

    You should read California Government Code Sections 3300-3313 or as they’re more commonly know, the Peace Officers Bill of Rights to find the answers to your questions. Don’t like it? gotta change the law.

    patrick (97a0a7)

  22. […] LA prosecutor Patterico also weighs in. These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

    California Conservative » LAPD Officer Cleared in Shooting (f55714)

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