Berkeley Copwatch is questioning an incident between the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, and a suspect after five officers surrounded the suspect and shot him with a less-lethal foam baton round, according to a video provided by Berkeley Copwatch.
At around 5:15 p.m. March 14, a Black man was detained in front of US Liquors on Sacramento Street, according to a Berkeley Copwatch press release from April 7.
The suspect was captured on video talking to the officers before being shot with the less-lethal round. He was then arrested by the officers at the scene. The April 7 press release also stated that a witness saw the suspect being taken away from the scene in an ambulance.
Berkeley Copwatch has made requests to city officials to provide more details about the incident, according to the press release.
“This incident has broader implications for how officers respond to calls involving people with mental health disabilities, addiction disorders or other factors that can impair their ability to respond to officers,” Berkeley Copwatch’s press release from Monday reads. “We believe that our community is humane enough to seek violence only as a last resort and creative and educated enough to avail ourselves of current alternatives and approaches that seek to keep our whole community as safe as possible.”
BPD officers initially responded to the scene based on a report from Sacramento Market, a neighboring store, that said the suspect had caused a disturbance inside the business, according to a statement from BPD. The statement alleged that the suspect threatened the clerk inside the business with a knife after the clerk told the suspect that he would alert the police.
Officers then arrived at the scene and directed the suspect to lie on the ground. The statement alleged that the suspect went down on his knees but refused to lie on the ground.
“At that point, the suspect was warned that officers would use less-lethal projectiles if he did not lay on the ground,” the statement claims. “Officers were concerned that the suspect, with a concealed knife, continued to present a danger to the officers present, should they approach.”
The statement from BPD also alleged that the suspect said to the officers at the scene that he should stand up from his position so the officers would shoot him. Officers then saw this as an indicator of a potential attempt to commit “suicide by cop” and “continued to safely engage with the suspect,” according to the statement.
An officer fired one less-lethal foam baton round at the suspect’s leg after the suspect continued to refuse officers’ directions, the statement alleged. The suspect then complied and was taken into custody. The Berkeley Fire Department also arrived to medically evaluate the suspect for injuries.
The statement, however, alleged that the suspect declined medical attention and sustained a bruise on the leg where the round had struck him. No officers were injured in this incident.
The knife, which was allegedly found in the suspect’s pockets, and video surveillance from the business were collected by BPD as evidence of the incident.
The suspect was confirmed to be 36-year-old Berkeley resident William Dean Brown, who was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a weapon, resisting arrest and public intoxication. On March 17, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged the suspect with brandishing a weapon and resisting arrest, according to the statement.
“Copwatch will conduct an independent, People’s Investigation,” Berkeley Copwatch’s April 7 press release reads. “We will collaborate with credible professionals including Adante Pointer, civil rights attorney with the Offices of John Burris.”
In its April 7 press release, Berkeley Copwatch also called for a public release of the police report, use of force reports, access to the body camera footage from the officers involved in the incident and the suspension of involved officers until the incident is further investigated by Berkeley Copwatch and independent experts.