The attorney for the family of a man shot to death by San Bernardino police is questioning the official version of events that was presented in a critical-incident video narrated by the chief of police and a department news release.
Robert Marquise “Rob” Adams, 23, died after being shot Saturday at about 8:05 p.m. Two uniformed officers in an unmarked car drove into the parking lot in the 400 block of West Highland Avenue after someone reported seeing a man with a gun. The officers got out of their car and ordered Adams to surrender, police said. But Adams ran toward two parked cars while still carrying a gun, police said.
Police said that one officer, fearing that Adams might use the cars for cover for a gunfight that could endanger officers and bystanders, shot Adams, who had his back to the officers.
Attorney Bradley Gage, representing Adams’ family, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Wednesday, July 20, demanded to know why the officer shot Adams. The news conference, outside City Hall, was punctuated by about 50 family members and friends of Adams chanting “Justice for Rob.”
“Any reasonable person is going to run. That is not an acceptable reason to shoot,” Gage said.
Gage challenged a number of statements made by the Police Department.
For one, he said there is no evidence, as police had said, that the officers warned Adams to surrender. And Gage said there were no bystanders for police to protect.
“Look at the video. There’s nobody,” Gage said.
The attorney also said the department, in trying to “assassinate” Adams’ character, misstated his criminal history, confusing him with other family members named Robert who have convictions. Gage said Adams has a lone robbery conviction.
Gage said the video does not conclusively show Adams holding a gun, as police said the video “clearly” indicates. Adams’ mother, Tamika King, said she believes her son was holding a cell phone, and not a gun, when he was shot. She said her son had been excitedly talking to her about his purchase of a BMW when police arrived.
“I was on the phone and all I heard after that was gunshots,” King said.
The video shows the approximate 20 seconds before the officer shot Adams, and he could not be seen talking on a phone during that time.
Crump took the larger view, decrying shootings of Black people by police nationwide.
“Why do police in America think the most dangerous thing is a Black person running away from them?” Crump said.
Police Chief Darren Goodman said in an interview after the news conference that he is looking forward to responding to the attorneys’ remarks because he is “certain of the facts,” but cannot do so until the city’s lawyers authorize a statement.
During Wednesday’s City Council meeting before a capacity crowd at Feldheym Library, the incident video on the shooting prepared by the Police Department and released a day earlier was played.
Council members Kimberly Calvin, Ben Reynoso and Sandra Ibarra offered condolences to Adams’ family.
“To lose a child,” Calvin said, “to lose a family member is horrific.”
“There’s a lot of tension in the city right now and you expect something to happen,” said Councilman Damon Alexander. “You guys want transparency. You want to see something happen with your Police Department and City Council. This is a traumatic incident to happen in our city, and the loss of life is tragic in any sense, no matter whether at the hands of an officer or the hands of someone else.
“But I want to be sure that the public understands that this is something that is not going to be swept under the carpet, something that is not going to go away.”
Alexander, a retired federal law enforcement officer, added the shooting “is on the forefront of this mayor and council’s agenda.”
“It is important for us to follow this,” he said. “It is important for us to continue to let you know what is going on, because no information is bad information. … Answers are going to be had. Things are going to be said, but you have to give us some time.”
Gage said he plans to file a claim against the city this week. Such claims are legally required precursors to lawsuits.