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Protesters Call For Prosecution Of Oakland Police Sergeant

By Angela Rowen, Special to the Planet
Tuesday September 25, 2007

Friends and family of Gary W. King rallied outside of Oakland City Hall Monday afternoon to call for the prosecution of the police sergeant who shot and killed the 20-year-old Oakland resident last Thursday. 

“It was all wrong. It was not legal. It was an execution. It was murder,” said Berkeley resident Xavier Alladin Shanklin, 18, a witness to the fatal shooting and a longtime friend of King. “We are all traumatized, we are all hurting.” 

Protesters say Sgt. Pat Gonzales should have used other means to subdue King, who died at Highland Hospital after he was shot twice in the back. 

“It’s an injustice. He could have shot him in his leg,” said Berkeley resident Neenee Franklin, 16, who first met King three years ago when she lived on 54th Street and Martin Luther King Way. “He was always there with a warm heart, and he always wanted to know I was okay … He always came with a smile.” 

Gonzales approached King at around 4:30 p.m. as he was coming out of a convenience store, believing the young man to fit the description of a suspect wanted in the murder of a Pittsburg man in August. Police say King resisted Gonzales’ attempt to question him, and a struggle ensued between them. After an attempt at subduing King with a taser gun failed, Gonzales says he shot King twice in the back as he was running away from him, claiming King appeared to be reaching into his pants for a gun. Police spokesperson Michael Poirier said a loaded revolver was found on Gonzales. 

Witnesses dispute police claims. “I didn’t see a gun. None of us saw a gun,” said Shanklin, one of four witnesses we spoke to who say they were about 20 yards away from the scene. “The police are the ones who put the dope on us. They’re the ones who put the guns on us.” 

Shanklin is not alone is his distrust of the police. Mon’a Lewis, a 15-year-old Oakland resident who knew King for three years, said King was a “nice guy” who would never be involved in a murder.  

“I think it’s racism,” she said. “They stereotype any black male. Basically, if you’re wearing a white shirt and jeans and a beanie, you are considered a criminal.” 

Gonzales is a member of the department’s crime reduction unit and had been instructed to question people who match the description of the suspect of an Aug. 21 murder. In that case, Pittsburg resident Ronald Spears, 29, was shot and killed by a man he agreed to give a ride to in exchange for directions. Once inside the car, the suspect demanded money from the victim, and a struggle ensued that caused the car to crash on 55th Street. Spears was then shot and killed by the suspect. 

Protesters at the rally demanded to speak with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and called on the city to fire Gonzales, a nine-year veteran who has been involved in another fatal shooting. 

“We need to make sure that … Gonzales is not receiving a paycheck from the OPD,” said Keith Shanklin, the spokesperson for the family. Shanklin, who has spoken to witnesses, said Gonzales never identified himself to King or explained why he was detaining him. “He was just provoking him,” he said. 

Dellums’ spokesperson, Paul Rose, said the mayor’s office can’t comment on the case until the police department completes its internal investigation. 

Shanklin said the family is considering legal action and is in the process of selecting an attorney to take on their case.  

Rashidah Grinage, director of People United for a Better Oakland, said she plans to file a complaint with the Oakland Citizen Police Review Board. “This case is extremely troubling,” she said. “It is very important that there be an outside investigation by citizens, independent of the police department.”