OAKLAND, CA – Today a federal court jury in San Francisco returned a verdict in favor of the City of Oakland in Spring Mathews, et al. v. City of Oakland, et al., a lawsuit filed by family members of a man who was fatally wounded after he pointed a gun at Oakland Police officers following a high speed pursuit in 2011.
On January 26, 2011, Oakland Police officers responded to a gunfight involving several individuals at an apartment building on Lockwood Street near 78th Avenue. Officers saw two individuals, later identified as Martin Flenaugh, II and Jereme Brown, fleeing from the scene in a red sedan. A long pursuit ensued that ended with a serious accident when the suspects ran a red light and hit another car while crossing San Leandro Street near 85th Avenue. Mr. Flenaugh, age 19, got out of the car on the passenger side with a gun in each hand and pointed both guns at an officer. Fearing for his life, the lives of other officers and the lives of innocent bystanders, the officer shot Mr. Flenaugh. Police recovered both handguns at the scene. Bullet casings from one of the guns were found at the Lockwood crime scene.
In 2012, family members of Mr. Flenaugh filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit against the City (Northern District of California Case No. C12-03235) alleging that he was unarmed when he was shot. At trial, Mr. Brown testified that Mr. Flenaugh did not have a gun and was not involved in the gunfight on Lockwood Street.
However, during cross examination, the City Attorney’s defense team played recordings of Mr. Brown’s phone calls from jail to impeach his testimony. In those calls, Mr. Brown said Mr. Flenaugh was in fact armed on the day he was killed, and had in fact fired shots during the gunfight. He also called Mr. Flenaugh “trigger happy.” Oakland Police officers and an independent witness all testified that Mr. Flenaugh was armed and aimed guns at an officer when he exited the car.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday morning before returning its verdict.
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker congratulated Deputy City Attorney David Pereda and Chief Assistant City Attorney Otis McGee for their handling of the case.
“I am pleased with the jury’s verdict, which was a sound decision based on the evidence,” City Attorney Parker said. “However, it is tragic that the officers were placed in a position where they had to use lethal force, and that this young man’s family suffered such a horrible loss.”