Archive for the ‘Sheriff-Coroner’ Category

Inquest jury finds last July’s Antioch Police shooting death justified

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Gas station clerk murdered during armed robbery

Armed robbery and murder suspect Zepp Crouchet, shot and killed by Antioch Police July 3, 2017. Herald file photo

By Daniel Borsuk

A 12-member Contra Costa County inquest jury unanimously found an Antioch police officer’s shooting of an armed robber and murderer of a Valero gas station clerk last July as an appropriate shooting on Thursday.  (See related articles, here and here)

After listening to nearly two hours of testimony jurors found that 42-year-old Zepp McKinley Crouchet of El Cerrito had died at the hands of another person, other than by accident. “That means it was a totally appropriate shooting,” said Matthew Guichard, a Walnut Creek attorney serving as the inquest hearing presiding officer.

During deliberations, jurors had four options to consider in the proceeding.  Those options included finding the cause of death by natural causes, by suicide or self-destruction, by accident, or by the hand of another person.

During the inquest called by Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner David Livingston to investigate law enforcement-related homicide cases, the jury found that 16-year Antioch Police Department veteran Kris Kent was justified when he discharged his firearm after witnessing a fight in progress inside the Valero gas station at the 1800 block of Hillcrest Avenue at 7:30 p.m. on July 3 between the gas station clerk Mohamad Jawad Ataie, 57, of Antioch and the robbery suspect Crouchet. See Sheriff’s Office Press Release,  here: 180104 Inquest finding Crouchet

Gas station clerk Mohammad “Jawad” Ataie, the victim of Crouchet’s armed robbery and murder. Herald file photo

Crouchet had a crime record dating back to 2004 when he was charged on three counts of robbery, one count of burglary and being with a felon in possession of a weapon.  In 2006, Crouchet took a plea deal and was sentenced to six years in prison with two years credit for time served.

More than $30,000 in donations have been collected on behalf of the family of Mohamad Jawad Ataie to help pay for funeral expenses and other expenses since his murder.

Once Officer Kent stepped inside the gas station, no more than 30 seconds had elapsed when the officer fired his service weapon twice, striking Crouchet both times, he testified.  The wounded Crouchet was able to run out of the gas station and fled across Hillcrest Avenue into the backyard of a nearby daycare center.

Crouchet was not found until July 4 dead in his Cadillac about a mile away from the Valero gas station at A Street and W. 20th Street.

During the inquest, officer Kent stated he had fired his gun twice, but Dr. Ikechi Ogan, a well- known forensic pathologist, testified that he had found three bullet wounds in the victim’s body.

“The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.  I found three gun shot wounds,” said Dr. Ogan.  “There was no evidence of close range fire.”

“There were other extenuating causes for the victim’s death,” Dr. Ogan said.  The doctor found 18 milligrams of alcohol and 38 milligrams of methamphetamines in Crouchet’s body.

The wounded gas station clerk Atawie was rushed to John Muir Hospital in Concord where he later died of his gunshot wounds from Crouchet’s Tech 9 firearm during their scuffle behind the cash register.

 

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Sheriff releases response to DOJ inquiry on immigration law compliance following Herald request

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Sheriff David O. Livingston. From CCCSheriff website.

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner David Livingston has provided at the request of the Contra Costa Herald a copy of his Dec. 1 letter to answer questions whether the department is out of compliance with federal immigration laws that entitled the Coroner-Sheriff Office to nearly $25 million in federal grants in 2016. CCSheriff ltr to DOJ re 8 USC 1373 Compliance 12-1-17

The sheriff’s letter was due Dec, 8, and he essentially informed U. S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson that the Office of the Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner is in compliance with federal immigration policy. That is in spite of the fact that beginning Jan. 1, 2018 California law enforcement agencies must begin to enforce Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act or what is better known as the sanctuary state law.

Livingston included with the letter his department’s draft policy on how it will and won’t cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which was issued Dec. 3, 2013 and updated on Nov. 16, 2017.

In his letter to Hanson, Livingston wrote:

“The California Values Act, with we must comply. That Act provides specifically that it does not authorize information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful of an individual, or from requesting from federal immigration authority’s immigration status information lawful or unlawful of an individual, or maintaining or exchanging that information with any other federal, state, or local government entity.”

Sheriff Livingston missed attending the Dec. 7 meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee meeting, disappointing a number of committee members who wanted to hear him comment and answer questions about the draft policy on ICE-undocumented jail inmates, but obviously were unable to do so.

“I am surprised and disappointed that the sheriff is not here,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond at the committee meeting. “I don’t know if this has ever happened before where the sheriff has not appeared at a Public Protection Committee meeting.”

Please see related article.

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Contra Costa Sheriff announces findings in ICE detention complaints investigation

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Sheriff David Livingston, center, speaks with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (to his left) and staff during a tour of the West County Detention Facility in Richmond on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Herald file photo.

Refutes claims made by illegal alien female inmates against West County Detention Facility

The West County Detention Facility. Herald filed photo

The Office of the Sheriff has completed its investigation into complaints raised by several Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) female detainees at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond, California. The complaints were first reported in a local newspaper. The Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation. Investigators interviewed 110 witnesses, with audio recordings and translators where necessary, and viewed hundreds of hours of video surveillance recordings. They also examined log books, computer entries and other evidence. (See related article)

The investigation found that nearly all of the complaints were unfounded and unsubstantiated. Claims of being “locked down” for 23 hours a day were false. The most time any ICE detainee was confined to their dormitory room was one hour and 24 minutes. These “lock downs” are commonly done for facility counts or for administrative reasons. At WCDF the detainees have keys to their rooms and free use of common bathroom facilities.

Sheriff David O. Livingston. From CCCSheriff website.

In one example, the person who complained in the article of being confined to her room for 23 hours was in fact confined for several days in a room with a full toilet and sink. She was confined in such a manner for disciplinary purposes after she assaulted another detainee.

Regarding the use of “red” biohazard bags for toilet needs, there was no evidence that any detainee was forced to use the bags in that manner. In very few cases detainees did use the bags for that purpose in violation of policy. Biohazard bag distribution is now limited to those detainees who are ill or have other medical needs. All inmates are free to use the bathrooms at any time, and even during “lock down” periods of approximately one hour, by notifying a Deputy Sheriff by using the call button in their rooms.

There were two complaints alleging limited access to healthcare that also appear to be unfounded based on detainee interviews. However, Contra Costa Health Services will be reviewing those specific complaints.

“Consistent with independent ICE inspections, we found that the alleged policy violations were largely unfounded,” said Sheriff David Livingston. “In fact, many detainees told us they are well treated at the West County Detention Facility.”

Sheriff Livingston added, “Some issues were identified, such as the use of profanity by a staff member or the quicker replacement of detainees’ room keys when they are lost or damaged. We will use this opportunity to improve wherever we can.”

The investigation will now be provided to the California Attorney General as Sheriff Livingston promised he would do.

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UPDATE 10/13/17: Jury in County Coroner’s inquest finds officer involved shooting death of Antioch man was an accident

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Nathan Banks. Photo courtesy higginsmortuary.com

Finding of “accident” defined

Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston announces that a coroner’s jury has reached a finding in the June 16, 2017 death of Nathan Gregory Banks. The finding of the jury is that the death is an accident.

Antioch police contacted a man and woman inside a car on the 2300 block of Manzanita Way. The man was later identified as Banks. The police officer noticed that Banks was in possession of a handgun. The officer ordered Banks to stay in the car, however, he fled holding the weapon in his hand. During a confrontation, the officer fired his duty weapon at Banks. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The coroner’s jury reached a verdict after hearing the testimony of witnesses called by the hearing officer, Matthew Guichard.

A coroner’s inquest, which Sheriff-Coroner Livingston convenes in fatal incidents involving police officers, is a public hearing, during which a jury rules on the manner of a person’s death. Jury members can choose from the following four options when making their finding: Accident, Suicide, Natural Causes, or At the hands of another person, other than by accident.

According to the obituary on Higgins Mortuary website, “Nathan Gregory Banks (37)” was a “lifelong resident of Antioch born June 11, 1980…a graduate of Antioch High School” and was “an apprentice in the Carpenters Union. He was fiercely loyal, loving, and protective of his family and friends” and “the beloved son of Dawn Marie & John Delucchi of Pittsburg and Greg & Theresa Banks of Antioch.”

He “is survived by his parents, grandparent Nana Peggy Banks, along with aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and cousins who will dearly miss his sense of humor, smile, and warm heart. Nathan was preceded by his sister Tarah Lynna Banks (2017), and Papa Byron Banks (2013).”

A memorial service was held for him on July 21 at Calvary Temple Church in Concord.

10/13/17 UPDATE: When asked why it was ruled an accident instead of “at the hands of another person, other than by accident” the Sheriff’s Public Information Officer, Jimmy Lee responded, “the inquest, although it is a hearing, is not like a traditional court case. There are no attorneys involved. Individuals directly involved in the case testify. The jury hears the testimony and selects from one of four options.”

“Also a finding of accident does not necessarily mean he (the officer) accidentally fired his service weapon,” he added.

Lee then provided the instructions to the jury which included definitions for each possible finding. The finding of “accident” included the following definition:

ACCIDENT: DEATH BY ACCIDENT CAN REFER TO A VARIETY OF UNFORSEEN OR UNINTENTIONAL EVENTS. SOME OF THOSE INVOLVE NATURAL PHENOMENA, SUCH AS DEATH BY FIRE, FLOOD, OR EARTHQUAKE, IN WHICH NO HUMAN AGENCY IS INVOLVED. ANOTHER SPECIES OF ACCIDENT IS THE KIND WHICH RESULTS FROM HUMAN ACTS OR CONDUCT. DEATH BY ACCIDENT WHERE A HUMAN AGENCY IS INVOLVED IS THUS BEST DEFINED AS THE UNINTENDED OR UNEXPECTED RESULTS OF HUMAN CONDUCT. THE TERM “ACCIDENT” AS IT APPLIES TO THESE PROCEEDINGS IS AN UNFORSEEN EVENT, MISFORTUNE, LOSS, ACT OR OMISSION.

Following are the complete jury instructions and definitions for each possible finding:

OFFICE OF THE CORONER – CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

CORONER’S JURY INSTRUCTIONS

MATTHEW P. GUICHARD, HEARING OFFICER

GUICHARD, TENG & PORTELLO, ATTORNEYS AT LAW

101 YGNACIO VALLEY ROAD, SUITE 112

WALNUT CREEK, CA 94596

TEL: (925) 459-8440 FAX: (925) 459-8445

DATE: October 10, 2017

CORONER’S NUMBER: 2017-2941

INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF: NATHAN GREGORY BANKS

BORN: June 11, 1980

DIED: June 17, 2017

 

MEMBERS OF THE JURY: HAVING NOW HEARD THE EVIDENCE, IT BECOMES YOUR DUTY TO RENDER YOUR VERDICT.

YOU ARE THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE JUDGES OF THE EVIDENCE GIVEN TO YOU FROM THE WITNESS STAND, AND FROM THAT EVIDENCE YOU SHOULD STATE IN YOUR VERDICT WHO THE DECEASED WAS, HOW, WHEN AND WHERE HE CAME TO HIS DEATH.

THE LAW PROVIDES THAT YOU SHALL FIND, IN ADDITION TO THE MEDICAL CAUSE OF DEATH, WHAT WAS THE MODE OR MANNER OF THE DECEDENT’S DEATH. TO THAT END, THE LAW PROVIDES THAT YOU MUST FIND WHETHER THE DECEDENT’S DEATH WAS BY:

1. NATURAL CAUSES, or

2. SUICIDE, or

3. ACCIDENT, or

4. AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER PERSON, OTHER THAN BY ACCIDENT.

EACH MODE OF DEATH IS ALTERNATIVE AND INDEPENDENT OF THE OTHERS, SO THAT YOU CANNOT COMBINE VERDICTS. YOU CANNOT ADD TO ANY OF THE DEFINITIONS. YOU MAY MAKE A SEPARATE COMMENT IF YOU WISH, BUT NOT ON THE VERDICT FORM.

THE FOUR MODES OF DEATH ARE DEFINED AS FOLLOWS:

1. NATURAL CAUSES: DEATH BY NATURAL CAUSES IS SO WELL KNOWN TO ALL OF YOU AS GENERALLY TO REQUIRE NO EXPLANATION. HOWEVER, FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROCEEDING, IT MAY BEST BE DEFINED AS A DEATH ARISING FROM AN ACT OF NATURE AS OPPOSED TO ONE BEING ARTIFICIALLY INDUCED.

2. SUICIDE: SUICIDE IS DEFINED AS AN INTENTIONAL ACT OF SELF-DESTRUCTION BY ONE WITH SUFFICIENT TOUCH WITH REALITY TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF HIS ACT. THE FACT ANOTHER PERSON, INCLUDING A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, ACTED AS THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE DECEASED SUBJECT’S DEATH, DOES NOT PRECLUDE A FINDING OF SUICIDE, WHEN THE SUBJECT INTENDED TO PRECIPITATE THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE AGAINST HIMSELF.

3. ACCIDENT: DEATH BY ACCIDENT CAN REFER TO A VARIETY OF UNFORSEEN OR UNINTENTIONAL EVENTS. SOME OF THOSE INVOLVE NATURAL PHENOMENA, SUCH AS DEATH BY FIRE, FLOOD, OR EARTHQUAKE, IN WHICH NO HUMAN AGENCY IS INVOLVED. ANOTHER SPECIES OF ACCIDENT IS THE KIND WHICH RESULTS FROM HUMAN ACTS OR CONDUCT. DEATH BY ACCIDENT WHERE A HUMAN AGENCY IS INVOLVED IS THUS BEST DEFINED AS THE UNINTENDED OR UNEXPECTED RESULTS OF HUMAN CONDUCT. THE TERM “ACCIDENT” AS IT APPLIES TO THESE PROCEEDINGS IS AN UNFORSEEN EVENT, MISFORTUNE, LOSS, ACT OR OMISSION.

4. AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER PERSON, OTHER THAN BY ACCIDENT: THAT PHRASE IS ESSENTIALLY SELF-EXPLANATORY. IT IS EITHER AN INTENTIONAL ACT WHICH DIRECTLY CAUSES THE DEATH OF ANOTHER PERSON OR AN INTENTIONAL OMISSION TO ACT WHICH DIRECTLY CAUSES THE DEATH OF ANOTHER PERSON.

YOU SHOULD DETERMINE THE MODE OR MANNER OF DEATH HEREIN BY A MORE LIKELY TRUE THAN NOT TRUE STANDARD. THAT MEANS IN EXAMINING ALL THE EVIDENCE YOU SHOULD DECIDE WHICH MODE OR MANNER OF DEATH OF THE FOUR LISTED MODES IS THE MOST LIKELY TO BE TRUE. THEREFORE, IF YOU SHOULD DETERMINE THAT THE EVIDENCE HEREIN IS MORE CONVINCING, AND CREATES A GREATER PROBABILITY OF TRUTH IN FAVOR OF ONE MODE, THAT MODE SHOULD BE YOUR VERDICT.

IN DETERMINING WHETHER A MODE HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE TRUE, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER ALL THE EVIDENCE BEARING UPON THAT ISSUE. YOU SHOULD ALSO BEAR IN MIND THAT IT IS THE LAW OF CALIFORNIA THAT ALL DEATHS MAY BE DESCRIBED BY ONE OF THE FOUR STATED MODES.

YOUR FINDINGS SHALL NOT INCLUDE NOR MAKE ANY REFERENCE TO CIVIL OR CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY ON THE PART OF THE DECEASED OR ANY OTHER PERSON.

UNDER THE LAW THAT GOVERNS INQUESTS, THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT YOUR VERDICT BE UNANIMOUS. A SIMPLE MAJORITY IS SUFFICIENT.

I HAVE NOT INTENDED BY ANYTHING I HAVE SAID OR DONE, OR BY THE QUESTIONS THAT I HAVE ASKED, TO INTIMATE OR SUGGEST HOW YOU SHOULD DECIDE ANY QUESTIONS OF FACT SUBMITTED TO YOU. IF ANYTHING I HAVE DONE OR SAID HAS SEEMED TO SO INDICATE, YOU WILL DISREGARD IT AND FORM YOUR OWN OPINION.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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