San Bernardino Settles Lawsuit Over Gun-Toting Man Shot At The Scene Of His Previous Robbery Arrest

The City of San Bernardino has announced that an agreement has been reached to settle for $4 million a $100 million lawsuit stemming from a 2022 officer involved shooting, filed by the estate of Rob Marquise Adams.
“San Bernardino agreed to the settlement recognizing the costs and attorneys’ fees to take a federal civil rights case to trial, as well as the risks associated with a civil jury, given the current climate in the courts,” said attorney Steven Rothans, who represented the city with regard to the matter.
The incident in question occurred on July 16, at which time Adams was apparently on the prowl in 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, one of an abundance of areas in San Bernardino where illegal activity proliferates. 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 that day 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, Michael Yuen and Imran Ahmed, 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 Yuen’s bodyworn camera.
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, an African American, can be seen in the visual field of the video as somewhat closer to the elevated camera recording the scene than the car. From the perspective of the video camera, Adams is 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 learned shortly after the incident, 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 Yuen’s bodyworn camera 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, Yuen 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 Yuen 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.
The shooting occurred 31 days after Darren Goodman, a former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department captain and Upland Police Chief, had been publicly sworn in as San Bernardino Police Chief.
Goodman, an African American, had been hired in some measure because of the perception that he could engage in effectively policing a crime-ridden predominantly minority community while the entirety of the United States in general and San Bernardino in particular were caught in a thunderstorm and deluge of charges of racial bias and prejudice involving law enforcement. Slightly over a month after becoming San Bernardino Police Chief, Goodman found himself faced with deciding whether to 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 either coldblooded or hotblooded murder.
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.
According to Goodman, Adams was “clearly displaying a gun in his waistband. Rob Marquis Adams 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.”
Goodman noted that excerpts from the security video showing the shooting had been posted to the internet, but that those moving images “failed 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.”
Just prior to Adams being shot, the bodyworn video shows Adams appearing to be flinging something – perhaps the gun – onto the roof of the video. This formed the basis of a contention that Adams was not armed when he was shot.
This was heavily disputed by Goodman shortly after the shooting.
““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 during the debrief video, as a close-up on that weapon was featured on the screen.
The department’s position and the position of the city after Adams’ family retained attorneys Ben Crump and Bradley Gage and pursued a civil suit against the officers, the police department and the city was that in the fast moving circumstance that the officers found themselves, Adams’ possession of the gun, his display of the gun and his panicked retreat created a situation in which the officers’ fear that Adams was seeking a vantage from which to shoot the officers was a logical one. This rendered the shooting justified, according to the city.
After the shooting, Crump and Gage were able to use money put up by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to carry out an autopsy independent of, and more exacting than the one performed by the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, which is an arm of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The independent autopsy erroneously concluded that Kaepernick had been shot seven times.
According to the lawsuit filed by Crump and Gage on behalf of Adams’ family, i.e., his father, Robert Adams, and his mother, Tamika King, on December 15, 2022, Adams was shot seven times, with five of those in the back. Further analysis would show that Adams was hit six times, with one of the bullets passing through his body, leaving an exit wound larger than an entrance wound, but which was originally interpreted as an entrance hole.
While the city, the police department and the district attorney’s office maintain that the officers were acting on a report to the department that a known criminal using the name “JuJu” was carrying a gun in the parking lot of the gambling operation and that JuJu was known to be Adams, Crump and Gage maintain the department and its officers had no way of knowing that JuJU was Adams. The city disputed this, based on Adams having been convicted, some four months before in March 2022, of a single count of armed robbery, a felony, which grew out of a 2021 incident in which Adams had robbed individuals who had emerged from the illegal gambling operation. At various times, both the prosecution and the defense have maintained that Adams was armed and present at the facility. The prosecution maintains Adams was there as a “lookout” for the illegal gambling operation, serving as a sort of security provider. The defense disputes that, but tacitly concedes that he might have been there to sell drugs.
Adams was in possession of at least $340 at the time he was shot.
A condition of Adams’ plea to the 2021 armed robbery case was that he possess no firearms and that he stay away from the illicit gambling operation on Highland Avenue.
It is unclear how it was that Adams, having been convicted of a felony just four months previously, was not in prison in July 2022. According to the district attorney’s office, Adams was one of a crew of three who robbed patrons at the gambling operation. It has been suggested that there was a connection between Adams and the operators of the illicit gambling operation.
Crump and Gage disputed that. They have suggested that the gambling operation would not have employed Adams after he was demonstrated to have robbed those who were gambling there, some of whom emerged carrying winnings in the form of a large amount of cash. Crump and Gage are more at home with the theory that Adams was dealing drugs or serving as a pimp for prostitutes who worked the area, and that he served as a conduit for hook-ups between those girls and the gaming house customers flush with cash as they took their leave.
Either way, as a drug dealer or pimp, according to Crump and Gage, Adams did not present a threat to the police officers or anyone else at the time he was shot, even if he was armed just a few moments before that occurred.
According to the lawsuit, Adams was peaceably conducting himself, talking to his cousin and his mother, Tamika King, who was on the phone with him, when Yuen and Ahmed arrived. It was Adams’ mother’s contention that Adams was holding a cellphone, which Yuen and Ahmed misinterpreted as a gun.
The case, filed in Riverside Federal Court, was assigned to Judge Jesus Bernal.
Early on, the city sought to disqualify Crump, who is not a member of the California Bar, from representing Adams and King. The City of San Bernardino also demanded a jury trial on the matter.
It was ultimately determined that Ahmed did not fire his weapon and that Yuen was responsible for all of the shots fired.
Crump and Gage angled toward the city, the department and Yuen, claiming that the shooting was unjustified, that the video did not conclusively demonstrate that Adams was holding a gun and that if he was in possession of a gun, he did not point it at the officers and that the city overstated Adams’ criminal history, in that he had only the single robbery conviction growing out of the 2021 incident. The Robert Adams with some of those convictions Robert Adams the city claimed was none other than Robert Adams, his father, the plaintiff in the case. The police department had, Crump and Gage said, “assassinated” Adams in the last seconds of his life and then, in the aftermath of his death, “assassinated” his character.
Their big ace-in-the-hole, Crump and Gage maintained, was that both Yuen and Ahmed had a history of excessive use of force, with a combined $1.5 million in judgments for such abuses against them.
Rothans, the attorney representing the city, said the settlement extends to everything about the case and all of the defendants, including the city, the police department, Chief Goodman and the department’s command staff, Yuen and Ahmed.
With the trial scheduled to begin in June, Rothans and other representatives of the city had been in mediation with Gage and Crump in a process overseen by retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dan Buckley. The settlement was reached on February 17, 2024. The $4 million total includes all payments to the plaintiffs and fees to Crump and Gage, their law firms as well as additional costs, including expert witnesses.

Leave a Reply