An afternoon press conference with Emeryville Police Chief Ken James at the Powell Street headquarters revealed further details of yesterday’s officer involved shooting, only the third such incident in his 40 year career with the force. The EPD did not disclose the names of the officers involved pending certain protocols but did disclose that they were a Caucasian female and African-American officers both with seven years of experience. [2/6 UPDATE: The EPD has issued a press release detailing the officers involved as Michelle Shepherd & Warren Williams.]. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation.
At about 12:35 PM, employees from the Home Depot located in Emeryville reported a combative female shoplifting suspect pointed a handgun at several employees after they tried to detain her for theft. Included in the items she was stealing were knives. While employees were attempting to detain her, the female pulled out a gun, and pointed the gun at the employees trying to detain her. The employees feared for their lives and stopped trying to detain her.
As two uniformed Emeryville Police officers driving fully marked patrol vehicles arrived at the store, they were advised that the suspect had fled on foot and was armed with a gun. After the suspect fled the store witness said she attempted to carjack multiple vehicles at gunpoint. Officers spotted the female in the 3400 block of Hollis Street. The suspect was still armed with the gun. Witnesses heard the officers give verbal commands to the suspect. The female pointed the gun at an officer and both officers discharged their service weapons, striking the suspect.
Medical aid was provided on scene however the suspect was pronounced deceased by medical personnel. A loaded revolver was recovered from the scene, next to the suspect. The name of the suspect is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin. There were no officers injured. One officer was wearing a body worn camera as part of a testing program, but did not activate the camera until after the shooting. Since the shooting occurred in Oakland, the Oakland Police Department is the primary investigating agency and is collecting all available evidence, including any video. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department’s Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821.
The officers involved both seven year veterans. One officer was a female and the other officer was African-American. The officer’s names are not being released at this time to allow sufficient time for the officers to notify family members.
The name of the deceased suspect was not released by the department pending notification of her next of kin but yesterday’s vigil and Twitter identified her as 38-year-old African-American Yvette Henderson with last known residence in Oakland. It was reported that she had a criminal history of fraud, identity theft and drug arrests but no violent convictions. One commenter via Facebook that cannot be confirmed was that she was a mother of two.
City Council just approved the purchase of 50 body cameras a month ago and are in the process of being “field-tested” but officers have not done any official training with them and the force does not yet have an official policy on them. “Body cameras are a matter of muscle memory,” James said. “And in a critical incident when adrenaline is flowing, especially when we haven’t done any of the training, it’s understandable why he forgot to turn it on.” The footage from the cameras have been reviewed and turned over to the Oakland Police Department.
— Matthew Barnes (@ttaMsenraB) February 4, 2015
65-year-old witness Russ Whitehead personally recounted the scene leading up to the shooting to various news agencies. Whitehead was pulling into the Extra Space Storage facility when he heard a woman “screaming frantically” behind him. Whitehead says he couldn’t see her well or decipher what she was yelling as she approached him, but she pointed a revolver in the face of his partner who was in a separate car behind him. His partner slammed his car in reverse and drove away but Whitehead was boxed in. Police arrive shortly after and directed commands at Henderson. “The next thing I know there were bullets flying and there were bullets going through my car,” Whitehead said according to this KRON Report.
Whitehead ducked to the floor of the car as Police gunfire shattered all of the windows of the Ford Focus he was driving. When the shooting concluded, Whitehead said he had to step over the woman’s body that lay next to the driver’s side door of his vehicle as police escorted him away from the car. Whitehead suffered only some minor scrapes from the shattered glass. Whitehead later returned to pick up his car from the storage facility and was confronted by protesters, some of whom reportedly yelled threats and profanity at him and prevented him from moving his car.
It is unclear if these revelations in the case will be enough to satisfy angry protesters who have been quick to claim conspiracy and cover-up and have put police agencies under a microscope as of late. Regardless of the clarity of the intentions of the suspect, the timing couldn’t be much worse for Police departments as a whole as they continue to be under fire because of the recent high-profile officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and the choke hold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY.