DA drops charge against Antioch Councilwoman Torres-Walker in 2021 police interference case

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges against Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker from an Oct. 3, 2021, incident at her home. Photo source: Facebook

Neither will say why; contributed $500 to Becton’s re-election campaign last year

Councilwoman blames police, claiming “my family and I have gone through a hell… we feared for our safety from the very people who on some level we trust to protect us from harm.”

“Antioch police officers are not targeting Councilwoman Torres-Walker.” – Rick Hoffman, President, APOA

Council candidates Motts, Gibson-Gray support release of body cam video; police dep’t, city attorney continue to stonewall release claiming it’s “privileged”

By Allen D. Payton

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office confirmed on Thursday, Sept. 1 that the charge against Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker for interfering with police outside her home on October 3, 2021, had been dropped in August. Neither DA Diana Becton nor Torres-Walker will say why.

Asked about the decision, CCDA Public Information Officer Ted Asregadoo simply responded, “The misdemeanor case against Tamisha Torres-Walker was dismissed on 8/8/2022 in the Interest of Justice or Furtherance of Justice (PC 1385). The DA’s Office isn’t commenting on the reason for the dismissal.”

According to reports, police were dispatched to Torres-Walker’s Antioch home shortly after midnight Saturday night, following calls to APD of noise complaints including dirt bikes riding in the street, loud music and gunshots. When officers arrived multiple shell casings were found in front of her home, she emerged from the house, appeared intoxicated, confronted and berated the officers, and interfered in their investigation, including taking the papers of a woman to whom they were speaking to at the scene, from one of the officer’s hand.

The official statements from the Antioch Police following a Public Records Act request by the Herald on Nov. 8, 2021, read, “Officers responded to the 500 block of Gary Ave on October 3, 2021 at 0027 hours, for a report of a loud party and shots heard, in the area.  There were no victims, no injuries, and no property loss determined at the time of officers’ arrival.  As mentioned, this is an open and continuing investigation at this time.”

Torres-Walker was later pressured by Mayor Lamar Thorpe and fellow council members to resign from her position as chair of the council’s Police Oversight Committee. There were also calls by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and others for her to resign from the city council. Torres-Walker chose to do the former and remain on the council. (See related articles here and here)

Then, in a response to a second request in March 2022, Antioch Police Captain Trevor Schnitzius wrote, “the requested records are statutorily exempt from disclosure, at this time” due to the ongoing investigation. But he further wrote, “the public interest served by not disclosing clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” APD response to T Torres-Walker video PRA 032822

Torres-Walker Claims She and Family “Feared” Antioch Police

Torres-Walker’s post on her official Facebook page on Sept. 9, 2022.

Last year, Torres-Walker contributed $500 to DA Diana Becton’s re-election campaign. In another, recent news report she was quoted as saying Antioch Police were targeting her family. Then, on Friday, September 9, 2022, Torres-Walker posted comments on her official Facebook page further attempting to turn on the police both the Oct. 3, 2021 incident at her home and the previous Dec. 2020 incident with her sons, for which she’s being sued by the two APD officers who were involved. (See related article)

“It took me some time to respond to residents and the press because I want to be sensitive to the challenges our police department faces related to multiple outside investigations. I also needed time to reflect with my family and reaffirm my commitment to reimagining public safety here at home in Antioch,” Torres-Walker wrote. “I moved to Antioch more than 8 years ago and even then the silence coming from CITY HALL related to police misconduct and use of force was deafening. It wasn’t till May of 2020 that residents of Antioch some of whom for years have been crying out for help even heard a peep.

This is why one of my first tasks as a newly elected leader was to get straight to work fighting for a police oversight body to foster transparency and accountability as it relates to policing serves. I worked tirelessly on the Council to establish the new department of public safety and community resources.

For the last several months, my family and I have gone through a hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone’s family, as we feared for our safety from the very people who on some level we trust to protect us from harm.

What is even more appalling is the fact that what I went through is exactly what I hear from many of our residents daily.

We cannot expect Antioch to be its very best when large segments of our population are afraid to speak out.

I finally can leave a series of sad unfortunate incidents behind me and continue working to create an Antioch where everyone feels safe.

Despite what some try to say about me, I fully support public safety measures that meet the needs of all our residents.

Antioch is no longer a small sundown town. We are the second most diverse City in the Bay Area and we deserve policing services that reflect that diversity.

To our residents, I will not stop working until everyone feels safe not just from state-sanctioned violence but from community-based violence as well.

Leadership focused on people and solutions, not just the fight.”

Police Body Cam Video Again Requested from Antioch Police, City Attorney

On Saturday, September 10, 2022, another request to the Antioch Police Department for release of the police body camera footage was made. Interim Police Chief Steve Ford, copying Captains Tony Morefield and Trevor Schnitzius, and City Attorney Thomas L. Smith, was asked, “now that the charges against Councilwoman Torres-Walker for the incident at her home on Oct. 3, 2021, have been dropped by the DA’s office and the investigation has concluded, will you release the officer(s) body dash camera footage of the incident?”

Questions for Torres-Walker Go Unanswered

In addition, Torres-Walker was sent questions on Saturday, Sept. 10 asking, “Are your comments in response to the DA’s Office dropping the charges against you of interfering with police during the Oct. 3, 2021 incident outside your home, as well as the charges against both your sons being dropped in the Dec. 2020 dirt bike chase and traffic stop incident?

Regarding the Oct. 2021 incident, do you know why the charges were dropped? Did anyone at the DA’s Office give you their reason?

What is your side of the story of what occurred that night? Did you grab something from the officer’s hand and interfere with that officer’s questioning of another person? Were you inebriated at the time as has been reported? Do you believe you did anything wrong? If so, will you apologize to both the police officer(s), the department and the public? If not, if you don’t believe you did anything wrong, why did you resign as chair from the council’s Police​ Oversight Committee?

Do you really believe you and your family have been targeted by Antioch Police officers and that they knew who your sons were during the dirt bike chase and traffic stop incident in Dec. 2020 and in responding to gunshots outside your home and noise complaints during the Oct. 2021 incident?

Do you know if either or both of the incidents involved any of the officers that are currently under investigation by the FBI and DA’s Office?

For the purpose of transparency do you support the release of the police officer(s) body camera video footage of the​ Oct. 2021 incident in front of your home?”

The incumbent councilwoman did not respond by publication time.

Questions for Police Officers Association President

In response to Torres-Walker’s latest Facebook comments, questions were also sent to Antioch Police Officers Association (APOA) President Rick Hoffman asking the following: “Have Antioch officers been targeting the councilwoman and her family members?

Did the officers who pursued her sons riding on their dirt bikes on city streets in Dec. 2020 and pulled over the younger one, know they were Torres-Walker’s sons while in pursuit of them?

Did the officer or officers who responded to the incident in Oct. 2021 do so because they knew it was her house before they arrived and if so, is that why they went there?

Does your organization support the release of the body camera video footage from that incident?

Are the two officers, Andrea Rodriguez and Calvin Prieto, who are suing the City and Torres-Walker still on medical leave?

Are either they or any of the officers involved in the Oct. 2021 incident part of those under investigation by the FBI and DA’s Office?

Do you have any additional comments regarding the councilwoman’s latest comments posted on Facebook?”

APOA President Hoffman Responds

APOA President Rick Hoffman responded, “No, Antioch police officers are not targeting Councilwoman Torres-Walker. To do so would not only be foolish, but illegal and would be condemned by the APOA.

To the best of my knowledge, the officers involved in the pursuit of Councilwoman Torres’ sons did not know they were her sons while they were in pursuit of them.

I can say that the officers involved in the response to Councilwoman Torres’ home were responding to a call for service. They were not targeting her or her home.

The APOA supports accountability and transparency for all members of city government. This would include members of the APOA as well as city leaders. APOA members were excited to have finally been given body worn cameras and are eager for the public to see the good work that we do. The APOA would fully support the release of the bodycam footage during the incident at Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s home as we believe it would be important to further the discussion of transparency and accountability.

To the best of my knowledge, Officers Rodriguez and Prieto have been on medical leave since late last year.

I cannot comment on whether or not any officers involved in the FBI investigation responded to Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s home in October 2021. I do not have information as to the extent of that investigation however, I believe that the release of the body camera footage will show all the officers involved and their conduct.

I do not have any comments on Councilwoman Torres’ post. I would only like to reiterate that the APOA is eager to have a good working relationship with all city officials, including Councilwoman Torres-Walker, and hope to better open up the lines of communication so we can work together in the future.”

Both Challengers Also Support Release of Police Video

Both of Torres-Walker’s challengers in the November election, Joy Motts and Diane Gibson-Gray, support the release of the police body camera video of the incident at the District 1 councilwoman’s home in Oct. 2021.

“We’ve gone through all this legislation for transparency and accountability for civilians and our police department. I just don’t understand why that information is not available in particular situations,” Motts said. “I asked for body cams before I left council. Nobody supported it, then. This is all part of the reformations of holding our police to higher standards.”

“I think it’s a privilege to be on council and you have to hold yourself to the highest standards and accountability,” she continued. “The truth is it’s inconvenient right now. That’s how it appears to me. There’s just not equity, truth and accountability.”

“If nothing went wrong, if the body cam footage substantiates dropping the charges, then why not make it available?” Motts asked.

“I would like to know from the city attorney is transparency discretionary and who gets to make that decision,” she added.

When asked about the video camera footage Gibson-Gray said, “I’ve requested it myself and was denied. It’s basically not available to the public. I’m naturally for it.”

Antioch Police Admit to Having Video, Won’t Release Claiming It’s “Privileged”

On Monday afternoon, Sept. 12, the Antioch Police Department’s Police Records Supervisor Amanda Nelson issued, on Interim Chief Ford’s letterhead, the response to the Herald’s request for release of the video included the following reasons for denying the request: “Consistent with its obligation under the CPRA (California Public Records Act), the City advises it has conducted a reasonable search and determined that we possess identifiable records that fall within the scope of your request. The City further advises that it has determined that the requested records are statutorily exempt from disclosure pursuant to: (1) Government Code (section) 6254(a), as “[p]reliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the public agency in the ordinary course of business”; (2) Government Code (section) 6254(f), as “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, … any state or local police agency, or any investigatory or security files compiled by any other state or local police agency’; (3) Government Code (section) 6254(k), as “[r]ecords, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege,” because the records are privileged under the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work product privilege and/or the deliberative process privilege, the closed session privilege; and (4) Government Code sections 6254.3 and 6254.21 as home address, telephone number, and birth dates of public employees/elected or appointed officials.” APD response to T Torres-Walker video PRA 091222

However, the letter then reads, “Consistent with its obligation under the CPRA, the City provides the following information: 10/3/21 12:27 am at *** Gary Ave. Reports of a loud party in the area and 5-6 shots heard.”

It ends with, “The following person is responsible for this determination after consult with the office of the City Attorney: AMANDA NELSON, POLICE RECORDS SUPERVISOR.”

Additional Questions for Interim Police Chief, City Attorney

Additional questions were then sent to Ford, Smith, copying Morefield, Schnitzius and Nelson asking, “Instead of leaving the​ decision up to a lower-level staffer, such as the Police Records Supervisor to determine what will and won’t be released, thus playing the Pontius Pilate game of washing your hands of it, why don’t you make the leadership decision and release the video which you know is the​ right thing to do for the purpose of transparency for the​ benefit of the public you claim you want the Antioch Police Department to serve and to avoid the appearance of both showing favoritism to a sitting council member facing re-election and a cover up, both coordinated with the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office?

Why did on one hand the APD inform me, previously in Nov. 2021, they couldn’t release the video due to the ongoing investigation, then in March 2022, Captain Schnitzius wrote, ‘the requested records are statutorily exempt from disclosure, at this time’. But he further wrote, ‘the public interest served by not disclosing clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record’, yet now, after the investigation is over and the charges have been dropped, the reason is conveniently changed to continue to conceal from the public what they have a right to see and know? How does not disclosing the video clearly outweigh the public interest in disclosing it? Isn’t just the opposite?

Instead of hiding behind what you’ve determined is ‘statutorily exempt’ why not simply release the video and let the public decide whether or not they think either the councilwoman or the officer(s) acted appropriately?

What is the point of having police officer body cameras if the videos are rarely if ever released since only one has been, so far in over a year of operating them?

How are the records ‘privileged under attorney-client privilege’, ‘attorney work product privilege’, ‘the deliberative process privilege’ or a ‘closed session privilege’ by any means since the city attorney did and does not represent Councilwoman Torres-Walker in this incident which occurred at her private residence and her actions were outside of her official duties, and aren’t a matter of closed session? Who is it that is participating in the so-called ‘deliberative process’ preventing you from releasing the video?

Ford and Smith were also asked, “are you claiming the video footage from Antioch Police officer body cameras aren’t retained? Or are you claiming they’re not part of “the ordinary course of business” when they’re supposedly automatically deployed whenever an officer leaves his patrol vehicle?”

Additional Public Records Act Requests Made

Another Public Records Act request was then made on Monday night, Sept. 12, 2022, of any and all reports by any and all Antioch Police officers who responded to any and all calls for service at Tamisha Torrs-Walker’s home (at *** Gary Avenue in Antioch, California) on Oct. 3, 2021.

Then due to reports that there have been multiple police calls for service at the councilwoman’s Antioch home, a separate Public Records Act was made Monday night, for the same type of aforementioned reports for any other Antioch Police call for service at any other time at Tamisha Torres-Walker’s current or any other, previous Antioch home(s) from Jan. 1, 2020, through today.

The department has 10 days to respond and can delay their response by up to another 14 days.

Please check back later for any updates to this report including responses from Torres-Walker, Ford or Smith.

Note: Torres-Walker’s home address was intentionally not included in this article and redacted in the letter from APD by the Herald.

the attachments to this post:

CCDA & Tamisha Torres-Walker FB 2022

APD response to T Torres-Walker video PRA 091222

APD response to T Torres-Walker video PRA 032822
APD response to T Torres-Walker video PRA 032822

TT-W comment on dropped charges 09-09-22

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