The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office cleared two officers of gunning down a mentally disturbed homeless man after they first failed to hit him with their squad car.
Veteran Sacramento police officers John C. Tennis and Randy R. Lozoya will face no criminal charges in the July 11, 2016, fatal shooting that left 50-year-old Joseph Mann dead on a sidewalk with 14 bullets in him and stoked community distrust in how law enforcement applies its discretionary authority to use deadly force.
Video footage released by the police department under community and political pressure revealed that Tennis and Lozoya first tried to strike Mann twice with their patrol vehicle before chasing him down along a side of closed business fronts and opening fire.
In its 12-page review, the DA’s office concluded that Tennis and Lozoya were in their legal right to apply deadly force, saying the officers feared for the safety of a female bystander they thought Mann “was going to stab or take … as a hostage,” as well as the safety businesses along a stretch of Del Paso Boulevard.
But the DA’s review omits crucial facts from its review of events that Monday morning, like the fact that those businesses were closed and that Mann only got anywhere near the female bystander because he was trying to avoid getting hit by a police car.
Attorney Mark T. Harris, a co-founder of the local Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, or LEAD, called the DA’s portrait of events “absolutely ridiculous.”
“That is Disneyland … Hogwarts, all rolled into one. That is absolute fantasy,” Harris told SN&R.
For critics of Sacramento’s law enforcement community, the decision not to charge Tennis or Lozoya in the face of damaging video evidence casts doubt on the DA’s ability to act as an impartial check on police powers and raises questions about the office’s past reviews of officer-involved shootings, none of which have resulted in criminal charges for local cops.
One of the strongest statements of doubt came from a former Sacramento City Council member now occupying higher office.
“Like many Sacramentans who saw the video, I question the conclusion by the D.A. that police acted within reason in the shooting and killing of Joseph Mann,” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said in a statement. “For far too long, there has been distrust surrounding police shootings and the decisions by local D.A.'s that work closely with police officers. This decision, coupled with the decision of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, is yet another example of why we need an independent investigation for an officer involved shooting where a civilian is killed. California needs a better process to investigate these incidents like the states of Wisconsin, New York, and Illinois. Next week, I’m introducing common sense legislation to create an independent process to rebuild public trust between the police and the community.”
Read the full story in the February 2, 2016, issue of the Sacramento News & Review.