By Mark Gutglueck
The ideal of community-based policing ran head-on into the hard reality of entrenched criminality in San Bernardino this week as an officer with the department shot and killed a Black suspect under circumstances with just enough ambiguity to them to bring both sides of the pro law enforcement/criminal and social justice divide to a cacophonous clash by which no rationale or mutually acceptable resolution seems possible.
Shattered with the death of 23-year-old Rob Marquis Adams is the illusion that San Bernardino’s hiring of its first African American police chief, which was officially effectuated 31 days previously, would cure the specter of racial bias and injustice that has hung over the now-154-year-old police department for most of the time it has been in existence.
That Adams was shot in the back as he was fleeing from two police officers is not in dispute. There is little doubt, either, that Adams was working drug-dealing turf he had staked out in one of the rougher and more crime-ridden and violence-prone districts in the county seat, which has long held the dubious distinction as the deadliest city in California and the notorious designation as the third most dangerous inner-city environment in the country. What is unclear is whether Adams was, as the police department has alleged, armed with a handgun which he had briefly brandished before the officer that shot and killed him and his partner had emerged from their unmarked vehicle. Nor is it likely to be convincingly established precisely what Adams’ intent was as he approached the undercover police vehicle in the seconds leading up to the slaying. A surveillance video that captured the entirety of the shooting and what preceded and followed it shows Adams acting in what might be interpreted as an aggressive manner in approaching the vehicle in which the two officers had arrived just seconds before the shooting.
Though the police department insists that Adams was holding a handgun as he approached the vehicle, whether the item in his hand is in fact a gun is not clear from the surveillance video nor from the bodyworn camera video taken from the perspective of the officer who shot Adams. Attorneys retained by Adams’ family and family members themselves assert the object was not a gun but a cell phone. And while the department showed still photographs of the gun that it maintains was recovered from near Adams after he was shot, the department insisted on blurring a substantial portion of the bodyworn video footage that showed Adams on the ground after he was felled by gunfire. Adams’ family’s attorneys purport that the portions of the body camera video footage that were released were electronically blurred to prevent those observing it from seeing that the item next to Adams as he lay dying on the ground was not a gun but the cell phone they alluded to. The gun the department maintains was the one Adams was carrying was planted by a member or members of the department unknown, the family and its attorneys have suggested.
In the aftermath of the shooting and the controversy it raised, Police Chief Darren Goodman emerged as the face of the department. Racial dynamics surround the shooting. Based on both the surveillance video and the selective footage of the body camera video shown by the department to the public, it appears that the officer who fired upon Adams is white. Goodman was brought in to head the police department in some measure because of his minority status, which was deemed an important and positive distinguishing characteristic, based upon ever intensifying accusations of racial prejudice that have been vectored at the department, which historically has been primarily composed of officers who are white. While the department in the last decade has engaged in an effort to recruit and hire more minority members – African Americans, Hispanics and Asians – and has made some inroads in doing just that, the racial and ethnic makeup of the department has not reflected that of the community as a whole. As of the 2020 Census, the Hispanic population of San Bernardino stood at 66.2 percent, the non-Hispanic white population at 14.4 percent, the African American population 13.2 percent, the Asian population 4.1 percent, American and Alaskan native 0.8 percent and Hawaiian and Pacific Islander 0.2 percent. Over half of the department’s officers are white. The department as a whole has been criticized because of the consideration that very few of its officers live within the city. In recent decades, the proliferation of crime, the sometimes-aggressive tactics used by the department in seeking to address it and multiple publicized officer-involved shootings together with statistical disparities in which nonwhites are arrested by the San Bernardino Police Department in numbers that exceed their ratio in the general American population have led to charges of bias against the department.
This has been exacerbated by the promotional patterns within the department by which white officers chosen from an-already heavily Caucasian employment pool have risen to command positions within the department with far greater frequency and in greater numbers than ethnic minority officers. The vilification of the department hit dual crescendos with the appointments of the two acting chiefs of police immediately prior to Goodman. Prior to his being designated as acting police chief, Eric McBride in 2015, while he was serving in the capacity of assistant police chief in San Bernardino, had competed for the position of police chief in the Los Angeles County city of El Monte when that city was carrying out a recruitment for that post. McBride, who had previously served as a councilman and mayor in the Riverside County city of Hemet, was selected by the El Monte City Council to lead its police department. Before he was sworn in, however, immigrants’ rights activists cited anti-illegal immigration policies McBride had advocated while he was an elected official in Hemet, which they said were incompatible with El Monte’s 68 percent Hispanic population. With a controversy building, McBride withdrew his application for the El Monte job.
When McBride retired in 2021, he was succeeded by Assistant Chief David Green as acting police chief. Green, along with two other members of the department, Adam Affrunti and Von Verbanic, on June 1, 2007 ran four African-American suspects who had engaged in an armed robbery of the Turner’s Outdoorsman store at Orange Show Lane and E Street – Tabari Barnes, Isaiah Henderson, Brandon Carroll and Michael Wade – to ground at a dead-end on Third Street in Highland after a ten-minute chase across San Bernardino during which the Acura Legend the quartet was using as a getaway car reached claimed speeds of as high as 130 miles per hour. There, Barnes and Henderson, who were both armed and trying to flee, were killed in a fusillade from Green, Affrunti and Verbanic.
The district attorney’s office ruled the shootings justified and a jury in 2012 rejected a wrongful death claim lodged against the officers by Barnes family, finding that they had used reasonable force to stop and apprehend the suspects, who had made off with more than 70 firearms during the robbery.
Those calling for social and criminal justice reform in San Bernardino maintained that the situation with the department could only be addressed by installing at its command level ethnic minorities who would change the culture of the organization and accelerate the hiring of minority officers.
Goodman, whose law enforcement career had advance mercurially almost from the onset of his tenure with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department that began in 1991 and which was augmented by scholastic achievement as well, was considered to be an ideal candidate to head the San Bernardino Police Department for multiple reasons.
After graduating from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s law enforcement academy, he went to work for the sheriff’s department as a deputy, first working corrections at the Central Jail in San Bernardino before being reassigned to patrol. Thereafter, he worked in the department’s narcotics, emergency operations, regional gang enforcement, fugitive apprehension and special weapons and tactics divisions, steadily increasing in rank to detective, sergeant and lieutenant. In 2013, upon his promotion to captain, he assumed command of the Sheriff’s Regional Training Center.
In 2016, Goodman was moved to Chino Hills as head of the sheriff’s station there, making him Chino Hills police chief, as that city contracts with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement service. Goodman was credited with using his status to ensure that the department devoted itself to traditional and specific law enforcement needs and issues by convincing city officials there to transfer assignments relating to non-law enforcement related public safety matters to other municipal and county service providers such as public works, code enforcement and mental health services.
Meanwhile, Goodman, who had already obtained a correspondent’s bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, attended classes and obtained graduate status relating to coursework at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government’s seminars for senior executives in state and local government, graduated from the University of Southern California’s Public Safety Leadership Program, obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California and then finished his doctoral studies at USC’s Rossier School of Education while serving as an adjunct-professor at California State University San Bernardino.
In 2018, he was lured away from the sheriff’s department after he was induced to apply for the position of Upland police chief and was then selected for that post. His acceptance of that assignment made him Upland’s first Black police chief.
In the summer of 2019, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz signaled his pending retirement and then exited in September of that year. Goodman, who resides in Riverside, applied to fill the vacancy created by Diaz’s departure. Goodman was a serious contender for the job. Ultimately, then-Riverside City Manager Al Zelinka’s conferred the police chief’s position on Lawrence Gonzalez, based upon his familiarity with the department as a consequence of his 27 years there, including the extended stint he had served as deputy chief during Diaz’s tenure and the four months he had served as interim chief following Diaz’s departure. Nevertheless, Riverside expressed interest in hiring Goodman as assistant police chief. When reports reached Upland that Goodman was about to jump ship to Riverside, the Upland City Council took steps to secure a commitment from Goodman in the form of a contract that was intended to keep him in place in the City of Gracious Living for what the council hoped would be the foreseeable future.
Upland boosted his total annual compensation to $388,033.99, which included an annual salary of $218,467.31, add-ons of $12,623.59, benefits of $62,790.14 and a $94,152.95 contribution toward his retirement. That move initially raised Goodman’s compensation above the $372,755.03 provided to then-Upland City Manager Rosemary Hoerning.
For managerial purists, that presented a dilemma, since on a municipal governance organizational chart, a city manager oversees the police chief. In only the rarest of circumstances does someone higher up in the hierarchy of an organization make less money than those answerable to him or her.
That Goodman was one of those rarefied instances of someone making more money than his boss was an indicator of how much he was valued. Nevertheless, this elicited concern that the city’s proper line of authority had been compromised through the creation of a circumstance in which Goodman was being remunerated at a higher rate of pay than Hoerning, who was technically in a position of authority over him. Ultimately, to address that managerial anomaly, the city council in Upland provided Hoerning with $28,268.26 in annual add-ons to make her once more the top dog on Upland’s staff roster.
In the summer of 2020, Goodman was briefly placed on administrative leave when his executive secretary lodged a complaint against him. Both Hoerning and Upland Mayor Debbie Stone chose to pursue an investigation and potential discipline or firing of Goodman in response to the complaint. In reaction, Goodman retained former Federal Judge Stephen Larson to represent him. Multiple issues were raised in contesting the suspension, including accusations that Goodman was being discriminated against because of his race. There was simultaneously a spontaneous outpouring of support for Goodman from the community. Within a week, Goodman was reinstated.
In San Bernardino, even before McBride departed as acting police chief last year, both city officials and community activists had come to consider Goodman to be something of a dream candidate for the position of the city’s top cop.
His three decades of experience as a lawman appealed to traditionalists and the pro-law enforcement crowd on the right.
His educational status was impressive, appealing to those on both the right and left of the political spectrum. He stood at the threshold of having a PhD, an extremely uncommon achievement for law enforcement professionals who normally place a greater emphasis on action than academics. He was unable to put the title of Dr. in front of his name only because he had been so engaged in running the Upland Police Department that he had simply not had the time to devote to completing his dissertation.
Moreover, Goodman was an African American, which was of tremendous appeal to those on the left, for whom identity politics is the watchword. On the basis of his race alone, they calculated, Goodman would be sensitive to the plight of minorities in American society and the outrage of summary punishment by police officers meted out at the street level and the injustices too often administered through the courts. Moreover, Goodman had himself asserted his own status as an abused minority when he was temporarily removed as police chief in the City of Gracious Living.
In Goodman, everyone in San Bernardino, it seemed, perceived what they wanted to perceive. He was a superman, someone who would come in, uphold the law and direct his officers to arrest criminals and make the city’s streets safe once again while simultaneously purging the department of the brutal and biased white supremacists who were abusing their authority to unjustifiably harass, bedevil, arrest, incarcerate, testify against and even cripple, maim or kill innocents because of racial animus. He was the answer, the solution, the leader, the messiah and savior everyone was waiting for.
Early on, San Bernardino officials signaled to Goodman they were enthusiastic, indeed anxious, to hire him as police chief. This put the city and its taxpayers at a tremendous disadvantage in the negotiations that ensued with Goodman, as he was able to deal from a position of strength. After months of back and forth discussions between Goodman and City Manager Robert Field, during the course of which Goodman had the opportunity to dialog with Upland city officials and to see the degree to which they were willing to increase his salary and benefits to keep him on the west end of the county, he was able to utilize the figures he was offered in Upland to induce Field to go higher and higher and yet higher in his offers to have Goodman take on the chief of police spot in the county seat. On April 1, it was announced that Goodman was leaving Upland and would begin as San Bernardino’s police chief in July. Tellingly, neither Field, nor the city council nor the city in general disclosed or offered for public scrutiny Goodman’s employment contract, despite it being a public document. Nor did Field, nor the council nor the city reveal how much Goodman is being paid in his role as police chief.
Informally, Goodman began with the city on June 1. On June 15, he was sworn in as chief in a public ceremony.
In September 2021, Captain Francisco Hernandez had been promoted to the position of assistant police chief. With a Hispanic as Goodman’s right-hand man, it was the nearly universal hope that the department could at last put the bête noire of institutional racism behind it and that somehow Goodman would magically elude the pitfalls that lay before him. Unmentioned was that the pitfalls reserved for the San Bernardino police chief stretched nearly to hell itself.
As it turned out, Providence did grant Goodman a one-month grace period. From his swearing-in to July 15, he and the department suffered no untoward incident. But Saturday, June 16 dawned, and as the day progressed, Adams found his way to one of the many areas in San Bernardino where illegal activity proliferates, in this case, the back parking lot shared by several commercial establishments, including an illegal online gambling business located in the 400 block of West Highland Street as well as Golden State Medical & Oxygen Service at 424 West Highland Avenue. That parking lot is a locale at which a concentration of vice activity, including drug dealing and pimping, is known to take place.
Right around sunset, which fell, according to the National Weather Service, at 7:57 p.m., a call came into the police department’s dispatch center reporting that an armed man was seen in the parking lot. Two officers with the department, who at this time have not yet been identified, rolled on the call after the dispatch center broadcast.
Video footage of the shooting was made publicly available by the department in a posting to YouTube early on July 19 titled “Critical Incident Debrief – Officer Involved Shooting.” The shooting in that posting is shown from both the perspective of a parking lot security video and the bodyworn camera of the officer who shot Adams.
Roughly seven seconds after the officers’ car first appears on the security video slowly pulling into the parking lot, the car comes to a stop. As the portion of the video shown in the debrief video begins, Adams, who in the field of the video is somewhat closer to the elevated camera recording the scene than the car, can be seen in right profile facing the back of the building in which Golden State Medical & Oxygen Service is quartered as he is apparently speaking to another black man seen in left profile who is closer to the building standing between two parked cars. That black man, the Sentinel has learned, is Adams’ cousin. Roughly two seconds after the car comes into the parking lot, Adams pivots to his left to regard the vehicle so that he is only seen from behind on the security video. Shortly thereafter, and while his back is yet to the camera, he appears to pull an object out of his waistband with his right hand. When his hand drops to his side, a dark and linear object can be seen in his hand pointing toward the ground. It then appears that he has placed the object into the right pocket of the nearly-knee length shorts he is wearing as he begins a slow and what appears to be an almost rhythmic shuffle toward the car. As he is taking a sixth step, the officers, who are in uniform, abruptly emerge from either side of the vehicle simultaneously, at which point they both have their guns drawn. The light-sighting on the gun held by the officer nearest Adams is already activated and appears as a bright light beam as he launches himself from the driver side of the car. Upon the officers exiting their vehicle, Adams wheels around nearly 180 degrees and begins running away. His flight takes him into the narrow gap between two cars parked with their front ends proximate to the back of the Golden State Medical & Oxygen Service building. The debrief video at that point backtracks some two or three seconds to show the video from the bodyworn camera of the officer on the driver side of the car as he exits the vehicle, with the security camera video synchronized in a small screen to the lower right of the debrief video to thus show the shooting from both perspectives. When the door flies open, the driver darts straight toward Adams. As Adams is caught between the two cars and nears the wall of the Golden State Medical & Oxygen Service building, which has blocked him in, he appears to jump almost straight up as he heaves something onto the roof of the Golden State Medical & Oxygen Service building as the officer shoots at him five times. He collapses into the space near the front of the cars and the building. Thereafter, a considerable portion of the bodyworn camera video shown on the debrief video is electronically blurred but does seem to depict the officer who shot Adams using a belt to apply a tourniquet to the fallen Adams as the officer can be heard saying, “See if they can get a trauma kit to the next unit.” In the field of the bodycam video that is unobscured, seen lying next to Adams is a wad of what appears to be at least 17 $20 bills. The video from the perspective of the officer’s bodyworn camera then jumps ahead an unknown amount of time, resuming to show the officer and at least one other officer or fireman are carrying Adams rapidly – indeed virtually running as the clacking of their shoes on the pavement seems to indicate they are trotting – to a fire department paramedic unit.
In the aftermath of the incident, a report that a member or members of the police department had shot a black man in the back as he was fleeing from them spread throughout the community. Immediately thereafter, what was apparently a copy of the surveillance video showing Adams being gunned down was posted to the internet.
Any hope Darren Goodman once had that he could engage in policing a crime-ridden predominantly minority community while the entirety of the United States in general and San Bernardino in particular are caught in a thunderstorm and deluge of charges of racial bias and prejudice and that he might simultaneously maneuver between the raindrops and keep from getting wet was over forever. By Monday, July 18, he was faced with a decision: He would need to either back the officers he commanded or join in with the social reformers and crusaders for racial justice calling for the officer or officers responsible for the killing of Rob Adams to have their guns and badges taken away and prosecuted for, take your pick, either coldblooded or hotblooded murder.
Anyone who had any delusion that Goodman might choose the latter course was soon rudely disappointed.
In the debriefing video, Goodman unequivocally took the position that the shooting was justified, and that Adams’ fate was the product of his own poor choice to embrace a life of criminality.
Saying that it was the goal of his department “to be transparent with the community
and share as much information as possible,” Goodman provided a narrative of events.
“On Saturday, July 16, 2022, at approximately 8:05 p.m., two fully uniformed San Bernardino specialized unit investigation officers were conducting follow up in an unmarked vehicle after receiving information from a citizen informant that a black male adult armed with a handgun was seen in the parking lot of a business located in the 400 block of West Highland Avenue. As officers arrived, they spotted two males, one of them clearly displaying a gun in his waistband. Additionally, a number of community members were walking and in their vehicles in the parking lot as well as residents outside in their adjacent homes. One of the males, later identified as 23-year-old Rob Marquis Adams of San Bernardino, saw the officers’ vehicle, pulled the gun from his waistband and began walking toward the officers’ car. The officers exited their vehicle and gave Adams verbal commands, but he immediately ran toward two parked vehicles with the gun in his right hand. Officers briefly chased Adams but seeing that he had no outlet, they believed he intended to use the vehicle as cover to shoot at them. The officer saw Adams look over his shoulder with the gun still in his right hand. Fearing that bystanders’ or the officers’ lives were in danger, one of the officers fired his gun, striking Adams.”
According to Goodman, “Officers quickly rendered medical aid and Adams was transported to a local hospital where he died as a result of his injuries. The second subject was taken into custody and subsequently released without incident.”
Throughout the debrief video, Goodman repeatedly stated with emphasis that Adams was armed. “Adams’ gun, a black nine-millimeter Taurus G3C with a round in the chamber and ten rounds in the magazine, was recovered at the scene,” Goodman said as the video offered a close-up on that weapon.
Goodman bewailed that the public had taken possession of not only the story but a key element of the evidence pertaining to it before the department had the opportunity to conduct its investigation and construct an authoritative narrative of what had occurred.
“Unfortunately, a surveillance video was released on social media prior to our department having the opportunity to review all available information and evidence,” Goodman said. “The video, which has been posted online, fails to provide critical details or context as to what actually occurred during the incident, details like the specific location has a history of criminal activity, including an armed robbery involving Adams as a suspect, where he held several victims at gunpoint and was in possession of numerous firearms. Adams not only clearly possessed a firearm but pulled it from his waistband and displayed it as he walked toward the officers’ vehicle. There were numerous innocent bystanders in the immediate area. Adams was given commands by the uniformed police officers, which is confirmed by witness statements, including the male that was with Adams. The officers did not immediately engage him when he walked toward their vehicle, hoping that he would follow their commands and drop the gun. Adams had an extensive criminal history, was on felony probation for armed robbery and had felony warrants for assault with a deadly weapon, possession of stolen property and robbery. He had several other prior arrests, including a conviction for robbery.”
Goodman said, “We ask that the public and the media allow us to complete our investigation and obtain all of the facts available before rendering opinions. The San Bernardino Police Department is also conducting an administrative investigation to ensure that department policies and procedures were followed. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office responded to the scene and is conducting a parallel investigation, which is ongoing.”
Goodman made clear that when it comes to any contradiction between the version of events his officers provide and that of others who are not as trusting of department personnel and who detect a discrepancy between the available facts and evidence as opposed to what the sworn upholders of the law who are answerable to him as their chief maintain, he is prepared to side with those who have a professional and sworn duty to perpetuating justice.
“The men and women of the San Bernardino Police Department work tirelessly to protect our community and our residents during a time when violent crime is on the rise,” Goodman said. “It is unfortunate that our efforts to keep the community safe through proactive police work occasionally results in encounters with armed felons. Officers face this danger daily in an effort to help make San Bernardino a safer community.”
While both videos at present available to the public – the security video and the bodyworn video of the officer who shot Adams – contain elements that support Goodman’s version of events, the entirety of what has been released is not as cut and dried as the police department suggests or otherwise put out in its debrief video or in its initial statement with regard to the shooting. An unknown amount of video footage, indeed a fair portion of it, is currently being withheld without explanation. The attorneys for Adams’ family dispute some key elements of Goodman’s narrative, including the assertion that he was armed. They say that the withheld footage will establish that the object seen briefly on the surveillance video described by Goodman as a gun was in fact a cell phone, and they have suggested that the black nine-millimeter Taurus G3C said to be Adams’ has a handle virtually as long as the gun’s barrel, such that the handle would have protruded from the bottom of Adams’ hand and would have been visible when what the police department claims was the gun’s barrel could be seen pointed at the ground just before Adams slipped it into his pocket and began to approach the unmarked police car.
Moreover, Adams’ family’s lawyers maintain, the department presented in the debrief video footage from the body camera of the officer who shot Adams which had been electronically blurred at crucial points when the officer was standing over Adams in the last minutes of his life, which blocked out key evidence – the cell phone lying beside Adams – which would establish he did not have a gun. The black nine-millimeter Taurus G3C said to be Adams’ was planted, Adams’ family’s lawyers say.
Within 48 hours of Adams’ death, his mother, Tamika Deavila-King, his stepfather, Audwin King and his father, Robert Adams, had retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and his associate Bradley Gage, to represent them.
“This is a classic example of shoot first and ask questions later,” said Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd after he was killed during an arrest by Minneapolis Police on May 25, 2000. “It is the most cowardly type of murder to shoot a person in the back multiple times.”
Crump rejected the suggestion that Adams represented a threat to the officers. “He’s trying to get away,” Crump said. “They come up with these subjective fears to try to justify the unjustifiable acts of killin’ us.”
Crump, Gage and Adams’ mother, Tamika Deavila-King, said that Adams was on the phone when the shooting occurred.
“I was on the phone, and all I heard after that was gunshots,” Deavila-King said during a press conference/rally held on the steps of San Bernardino City Hall on Wednesday.
Adams’ father, Robert Adams, said, “My son, Rob, wasn’t a gang member. He was a good kid. To see my son get shot multiple times in the back… What father, or what parent would want to see their kid killed on a video?”
Gage told the Sentinel, “First and foremost, the item we see in his hand in the video is a cell phone. It is not the same color and it is not the same size as the gun. He was talking to his mother from the cell phone, which they falsely describe as a gun. They show you a gun afterwards in the video made for the press, but that is not the same color as what is in his hand.”
Imputing to Adams criminal involvement based upon the video evidence is a fallacy, Gage said.
“In the surveillance video you can see a car come up,” Gage said. “It is unmarked with tinted windows. It goes slowly and you see Rob talking to his friend. The car goes slow, like in a drive-by [shooting]. Now, they [Rob and the other individual described by Gage as his friend and since identified as his cousin] start paying attention. At that time, you can see in his hand the cell phone. You can see on the video, he is happy. He is dancing around because he just bought a new BMW. When they [the two police officers] come out of the car, you can see there is no warning time. You see a flashing and they start shooting almost as soon as he starts running. The body camera video kills their argument that they warned him [to surrender]. They never warned him.”
Gage said the department blurred the video when the officer who shot Adams was standing over him.
“That obscured, I believe, proof that what he had was a cell phone,” Gage said. “If you look at the data, he [the officer driving the car] turned on the body camera before getting out of the car. Even if you believe the statement that there is a 30-second-long buffer [before the video registers an audio], that should have passed while they were in the car. He comes out of the car and starts shooting almost instantaneously. Rob is looking back at him as he runs. At that point the shots are coming, and he runs like any reasonable person would. Then, when he goes down, the officer keeps shooting at him while he is on the ground.”
The officer who fatally shot Adams acted prematurely and without provocation or justification, Gage said.
“We are not 100 percent sure, but we do believe it was one officer who shot, and the other officer did not shoot,” Gage said. “That is significant. An officer acting reasonably would shoot if he felt he or others might be in danger. If one did not shoot, there was no justification for the other to shoot. Both officers are running when they come out of the car and the one officer begins firing immediately. He became the judge, jury and executioner.”
The Sentinel asked Gage if he believed that the officer who killed Adams was deliberately targeting Adams because of some past untoward interaction Adams had with him or other members of the department.
“Since I don’t know the name of the officers in the shooting, I can’t tell you if there was any specific animus involved,” Gage said. “I can tell you there certainly seems to be a perception on the part of that officer that someone running away was deemed suspicious.”
Gage said there could well be racial overtones to the shooting.
“I believe there have been racial issues with the department in the past,” Gage said. “There was a black female lieutenant with the department who made very specific claims in that regard. So, I do believe race is part of that, the problems with bias in the department’s policing of the community. We would like to believe that it is the content of our thoughts and our acts by which we are treated and judged and not the color of our skin. Unfortunately, racial inequality and racism exists. Chief Goodman is obviously Black, and he was in part hired to root out those sorts of problems. The fact of the matter is he is new. He only got here last month. He has not had time to implement any of those revisions if that is what is on his agenda. On paper he has some very good credentials and I applaud San Bernardino for bringing in an African American as police chief. That he is a Black police chief in this case is irrelevant to what happened on Saturday night.”
At the same time, Gage said, the race of the officer who shot Adams could have significance.
“From what we can see on the video, he does not appear Black,” Gage said.
The department is selectively presenting evidence to support its contention that the shooting was justifiable, Gage said.
“If you look at the press [debrief] video, part of it is pixeled out,” Gage said. “They are saying he had a gun in his hand, and they are also claiming he reached into his back pocket for a gun. When the officer came up to him lying on the ground, there is no gun. What you see on the ground to the side of the pixelation is not a gun but money bags.”
Equally troubling, Gage said, is the delay that took place in rendering Adams adequate medical assistance after he was shot multiple times. At one point, the video depicts the officer who shot Adams and another person, either a policeman or perhaps a firefighter, hoisting Adams and virtually running with him to a waiting fire department paramedic unit.
“You also see that in the body cam video of the officers running with Rob to the paramedic vehicle, they have edited out a chunk of time,” Gage said. “Many minutes were taken out. This is very misleading. In that respect, you can tell by how much darker it is. It is light at the time of the shooting, which is between 7:59 [pm] and 8:03 [pm]. By the time you see them carrying him away, it is getting dark. At around 2 minutes and 50 seconds into their [debrief] video, from the time you see the money, the sun is starting to go down. That tells me it was later. The fire department is there already. I am not sure why they didn’t get a stretcher. They could have brought a gurney to him. You can see that there was a big delay between the time he was shot and the time he was given over to the paramedics based on how dark the sky is getting. That is called deliberate indifference to medical needs.”
Gage said that Goodman was seeking to vilify Adams, and had exaggerated or outright misstated his criminal history, confusing him with other family members or those of no relation to him who had convictions. Gage acknowledged Adams had a robbery conviction but said that was the extent of his criminal record. He called Goodman’s statement about Adams on that score “false and defamatory. Perhaps he got him confused with other people named Robert Adams. Perhaps he just wanted to mislead. But whatever the reason for them putting out that misinformation, we will be making a public records request and we will be asking for all information that supports that.”
Three of the members of the San Bernardino City Council, Kimberly Calvin, Damon Alexander and Ben Reynoso, are African American.
Councilwoman Calvin characterized what Adams’ family is going through as “horrific.”
Councilman Alexander, who is a retired federal law enforcement agent, called the shooting death of Adams “a traumatic incident” and said the community wanted and had to be provided “transparency. There’s a lot of tension in the city right now. You want to see something happen with your police department and city council.”
Alexander said the public should know that determining what happened “is on the forefront of this mayor and council’s agenda. 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. It is important for us to follow this. It is important for us to continue to let you know what is going on. Answers are going to be had.”
Alexander implied but did not state directly that the officer who shot Adams would be held to account.
“Things are going to be said, but you have to give us some time,” Alexander said.
Reynoso, while accepting the police department’s assertion that Adams was armed, nevertheless went on record as condemning his shooting as unjustified.
“Robert Adams was carrying a firearm when an unmarked Nissan Altima approached,” Reynoso stated in a Twitter posting. “Police then exited the unmarked vehicle and Adams fled. Adams did not aim his weapon or fire a single shot. Police began firing immediately upon exiting the unmarked vehicle, striking Adams in the back while fleeing— [from] which he ultimately died. Being that Adams never aimed the gun, was approached by an unmarked vehicle, and was shot while fleeing, plausible criminality does not exist. In the end, Robert Adams is dead at the hands of the San Bernardino Police Department. In Tennessee v. Garner, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Tennessee statute that permitted police to use deadly force against a suspected felon fleeing arrest.”
Councilman Ted Sanchez said he would withhold judgment and comment.
“The police chief asked us to wait until the investigation is concluded and I want to respect that,” Sanchez said. “Chief Goodman is relatively new and we all have high hopes for him, so I will let the investigation run its course without any interference.”
Councilman Fred Shorett said of Goodman, “I had an extensive conversation with him before he assumed the police chief position. Based on that, I believe he is not just highly qualified but well-suited for the challenges of that job, which is one of tremendous strain and responsibility. Based on that and his previous experience, I had confidence he will do a great job for our community. Because the mayor and mayor pro tem were not here on June 15, as the senior member of the council, I was honored to have sworn him in as our police chief. Those two things helped create a bond between us, but beyond that, I don’t have enough experience with the new chief. This incident is certainly a huge thing for him to have to cut his teeth on. So, until the investigation is completed and we learn more – and I think there is much more we need to know – I am going to hold off on any comment or criticism or accolades. I don’t think it is appropriate for any of us on the council to comment. I think we should just let the investigation go forward.”
The Sentinel was unable to reach Goodman directly. Word has, however, come in to the Sentinel that Goodman has expressed the view, outside of any public forum, that the officer who shot Adams initiated gunfire too early.
While he had rigidly taken the position in the debrief video that the shooting was justified, that the department’s preliminary investigation into what had happened was sound and that all of what he was asserting was factual, in speaking with CBS News and its reporter Nicole Comstock, Goodman backtracked somewhat late on July 19. “I am not by any stretch saying that I’m justifying anything, but I’m telling you that is not to be condemned at this point,” Goodman told Comstock on video in an interview conducted in his office.
By Mark Gutglueck