OCEAN BEACH, CA. There will be a small vigil tonight at 6 pm at the site where exactly 6 years ago, a well-known homeless man in Ocean Beach was gunned down and killed by San Diego police officers. Danny “the Walker” Woodyard was filled with bullets on West Point Loma Avenue near the intersection with Voltaire Street, a few yards from the entrance to north beach parking lot.
Danny was a well-known homeless man, who was always seen walking around the community, hence his nickname. The morning of Feb 4, 2003, he had been dumpster diving with his only tool, an old knife. Thinking he was a drug dealer they were looking for, Danny was confronted by police officers, who ordered him to drop his knife. What happened next was viewed by dozens of OB residents called out to their porches, front doors and windows by the noise of the confrontation.
One year ago, after another homeless man was killed and the police officer involved exonerated by the DA, I wrote the following post:
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.