DA Exonerates Cop Killing of Mentally-Ill Homeless Man — Akin to the Shooting of Danny “the Walker”

by on February 2, 2008 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights, Ocean Beach, Organizing

July 2007 Police Shooting & Exoneration Brings Back Memories of the Killing of Danny “the Walker” By Police In Ocean Beach Exactly Five Years Ago

The Union-Trib brought us news today (2/02) that the District Attorney’s Office has exonerated the San Diego police shooting of a homeless man last year. The shooting of 32 year old homeless man, Dominic Long, who was described by family members as suffering from schizophrenia, occurred near Mission Bay in July 2007. DA Bonnie Dumanis sent a letter to San Diego Police Chief William Landsdown asserting that on the day of the shooting, Officer Travis Hamby feared for his life when Long advanced on him with a knife. The officer had been investigating a report of an alleged sexual assault of a woman pushing a child in a stroller near Mission Bay, when he saw Long, who supposedly matched the description of the assailant. [For the remainder of this article, go here.]

Regrettably, this incident smacked us right in the face, shaking loose our memory of the shooting exactly five years ago of Danny “the Walker” Woodyard by police in Ocean Beach. On February 4, 2003, police officers shot and killed Danny as he too was supposedly advancing on police with a knife. Although, that incident occurred in front of dozens of OB residents, who were outraged by the blatant killing of a known homeless man, slightly mentally off, who had been “dumpster diving” that morning with his digging tool, a knife.

Just several days later, OBGO (Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization) led 500 locals and family in a memorial to Danny at the site of what many in the community believed was a murder, and then a march down Abbott Street to a rally at the foot of Newport. Hundreds chanted, “Stop police brutality!” This was 2003! Not the Sixties or Seventies!

To calm the community, the DA’s Office organized a public forum at the OB Rec Center on March 4th – exactly a month after the killing. DA Dumanis was there, along with then-police chief Jerry Sanders, the Councilman and psychologists and counselors. Chief Sanders made a big point of how many resources the police have to assist the homeless, especially the mentally-ill homeless, from shelters, therapists, to non-lethal weapons, — none of which were available for some reason the morning Danny was shot. And apparently, none were available the day that Dominic Long was killed, either.

Danny’s shooting was particularly disturbing, not because it was done in front of so many residents, not because the residents’ version of what happened differed sharply with the police account and the later DA exoneration, but that it was the fourth killing by police of homeless men with mental problems within three years – back then.

On May 17, 2003, the DA’s Office released a report saying the Woodyard shooting was justified. [For the OBRag’s report on that, go here.]

There was a lot of talk back after Danny’s shooting about the use of lethal force by police, and all the non-lethal alternatives they have. But it was continually pointed out by the DA and police that officers – when placed in a position to shoot their weapon – always, always shoot to kill. This policy – apparently – has not changed.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Richard Nadeau February 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm

CURBSIDE JUSTICE

Another example of curbside justice where the individual officer on the beat becomes judge, jury and executioner without any accountabiility.

And of course, who today will defend the rights of the police victims? Cetainly not the DA’s office.

I was happy to see the community of OB “bear witness ” to the tragedy and organize a memorial for this unfortunate person. Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Rick, you’re right – both shootings can be described as “curbside justice”. In Dominic Long’s case, there had apparently been one complaint of an alleged sexual assault – which is horrible if it had occurred. But at that point, it was only an allegation. Mr. Long, if he had been arrested, deserved his rights to an attorney, copies of the police report, any witness statements, and a trial. He received NONE of that. The officer in fact acted as judge, jury and executioner. Where was his stun gun? Okay, so he advanced on the officer with a knife. Time to shoot is then justified. He had a knife. And when the officer pulls that trigger it has to be by policy to kill. Couldn’t have wounded the guy in the leg, brought him down for further investigation.
No. Death is the goal.
When Danny “the walker” was killed – his killing had been the 4th of a mentally off homeless guy within 3 years – and I forgot to add – in and around OB and Point Loma ONLY. I don’t have any stats for other killings of homeless, mentally-ill by police in other parts of the city or county.

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