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.