Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
The officer-involved shooting of 23-year-old Rob Marquise Adams in San Bernardino on July 16 has put the spotlight on a law that requires state prosecutors in California to investigate such incidents.
Authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Secretary of the California Legislative Black Caucus, Assembly Bill (AB) 1506 requires the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate “incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian.”
While an investigation would appear to be warranted in the Adams shooting case, DOJ stated in a July 22 email to California Black Media (CBM), “We’re aware of the incident. However, our office is not currently involved under AB 1506. At this point, local authorities are best-positioned to comment on the matter.”
That’s because the San Bernardino Police Department (SBPD) is claiming Adams had a gun, so an unarmed civilian was not involved.
Adams was shot multiple times in the back while running away from SBPD officers. The officers arrived in an unmarked sedan after receiving information that a Black man armed with a handgun was in the parking lot of a business known to house an illegal gambling operation.
Adams ran toward two parked vehicles with the gun in his right hand, according to a video statement SBPD Chief, Darren Goodman posted on the department’s website. “The cops briefly chased Adams, “but seeing” that Adams had no outlet, “they believed he intended to use the vehicles as cover to shoot at them,” Goodman said, describing his understanding of the events that preceded the shooting.
While SBPD says that Adams had a gun in his hand as he ran from the officers, the attorneys for the Adams family, Bradley C. Gage, and civil rights lawyer Ben Crump say he was holding his cell phone.
Gage said, “There are millions of Black men so any one of them could be a suspect. When you’re holding a cell phone it could look like a gun especially when you think it’s one.”
“They needed it to be a gun because God help them if they shot an unarmed man running away,” Crump said of the officers who shot Adams.
Adams’ mother, Tamika Deavila-King, said the shooting was not necessary and the officers’ version is untrue. “I’ll say it again, it was not a gun. I have proof on my phone the exact time that they killed my son that I was on the phone with him.”
As of July 1, 2021, it’s been DOJ’s responsibility to investigate officer-involved shootings that result in the death of an unarmed civilian. A published public report on each investigation must be released, pursuant to AB 1506.
DOJ states on its website that “when an officer-involved shooting occurs, transparent and open communication is critical to maintain public trust.”
Currently, Attorney General Rob Bonta and DOJ have 21 officer-involved shootings under investigation in jurisdictions such as Anaheim, Salinas, Fontana, Adelanto, San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
More than 42 law enforcement officers are being investigated and their cases are under review for potential criminal liability, according to the DOJ.
The DOJ recently opened up an investigation of a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed man in Adelanto on June 21 following a vehicle stop.
DOJ said in a written statement. “Following notification by local authorities, the California Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California deployed to the scene of the incident. Alongside other law enforcement partners, the California Department of Justice is investigating.”
What concerns the Adams family, according to their attorneys, is from what they viewed in the video shared widely on social media, is that Adams appeared unaware that police officers were in the unmarked car. Adams could have believed that he was about to be robbed or attacked.
The officers’ version of the events declares that when they exited their vehicle, they gave Adams verbal commands before opening fire. He immediately ran toward “two parked vehicles with the gun in his right hand,” Goodman said.
The gun the police recovered at the scene of the shooting, was a black 9mm Taurus G3C with a round in the chamber, and 10 rounds in the magazine
Goodman said SBPD is conducting an administrative investigation to ensure department policies and procedures were followed. He also stated that the SB County District Attorney’s Office responded to the scene and is conducting a parallel investigation, which is ongoing.
“Our goal is to be transparent with the community and share as much information as possible when critical incidents occur,” Goodman said. “It is unfortunate that our efforts to keep the community safe through proactive police work occasionally results in encounters with armed felons. Our officers face this danger daily in an effort to help make our community safer.”
Goodman asks the public and the media to allow his department to complete its investigation and gather all the facts. Adams family lawyers say they will file a lawsuit on behalf of the Adams family.
“Make no mistake about it, this is not the first time that we’ve seen them unjustly kill a young Black person. They shoot first and ask questions later,” Crump said. “And then after they assassinate our bodies…they then assassinate our character. They’re going to say all kinds of lies and innuendos to say, ‘Hold on, Rob wasn’t worth it.’ Well, we want you to know that Rob’s life mattered.”