The family members of Joshua Pawlik, a homeless man who was shot and killed by Oakland police last March, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers, claiming they used unnecessary force.
On March 11, police officers were dispatched to check the reports of an unarmed, unconscious many lying between two houses. They told him several times to get his hand off the gun as he woke up. When Pawlik wouldn’t comply, they fired their weapons and shot him several times, killing him.
The lawsuit, however, says that Pawlik made some small movements as he woke up, but never reached for his gun.
The lawsuit accuses officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka and Francisco Negrete of excessive force, negligence, a violation of civil rights and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
John Burris, a civil-rights attorney representing Pawlik’s mother, said that there are factual issues about the shooting that will have to be taken care of in court.
“To be honest with you, I don’t really rely on what the Police Department says,” Burris said. “All I know is that the man was sleeping. And he wound up dead and shot, and there’s no evidence by them that he pointed the weapon at them, or that he pointed the weapon at anyone.”
Burris noticed that there hasn’t been much public outcry about Pawlik’s shooting.
“We can only speculate as to why,” Burris said. “But notwithstanding that for us, every life has to be evaluated as to whether it was properly taken or not, regardless of the ethnic background of the person.”
The lawsuit adds that Pawlik had a history of drug and mental health problems, but no record of violence. He also had almost $100,000 on him when he died. Pawlik told his mother that he had recently come into some money, but didn’t explain how.
The Alameda County district attorney’s office is currently conducting a criminal investigation about the shooting.