By David M. Greenwald
Pleasanton, CA – On February 17, the Pleasanton Police shot and killed a suspect based on a domestic violence call.
According to media coverage of a released video this week, the footage, media outlets report, shows a man charging at officer with a knife in hand following a standoff outside his apartment.
The police identified the man as 33-year-old Cody Chavez.
According to media accounts he barricaded himself in his girlfriend’s apartment after she reported him for alleged domestic violence.
“We gave him every opportunity to peacefully surrender, and unfortunately he decided to charge at officers with a knife,” PPD Lt. Erik Silacci told the media. “It was tragic. I know it affects the entire community, and obviously this was an apartment complex, neighbors.”
The shooting followed a roughly 3.5-hour encounter at the apartment complex.
The video included audio of one police warning to Chavez: “You need to come outside, open the door with nothing in your hands; your hands up and you will not be harmed.”
But not everyone agrees with the police account. They question whether he was charging and also note that the weapon in question was a kitchen knife.
According to a release from community groups and DA Candidate Pamela Price, “Witness videos contradict the story told by lawyers for the police officers involved in the shooting. It is clear that an independent investigation needs to be implemented.”
In response to the February 17 incident, local democratic groups followed the lead of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee which called for any use of deadly force by law enforcement officers to be investigated by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The Tri-Valley Democratic Club and Southern Alameda County Progressive Democrats Executive Board signed on to a statement “asking for more accurate reporting of the case in the media and for an unbiased, measured and independent approach into investigating the death of San Jose resident Cody Chavez.”
“A call for help should never turn into a death sentence. I know exactly what it is like to fear harm from a loved one and need to have police intervention,” stated Pamela Price, herself a domestic violence survivor.
“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between ages 15-44. As the only woman in the race, and a survivor, I can speak to the trauma and fear women experience when faced with abuse by someone you love,” said Price. “But domestic violence should not be a death sentence—not for the victim and not for the perpetrator.”
“Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States and in this community,” a joint statement by Tri-Valley Democratic Club and Southern Alameda County Progressive Democrats read.
“In Alameda County, 72% of all DV cases involving a death, the victim was an intimate partner or a family member. And it is hugely under-reported in Alameda County,” they noted. “Estimates are that less than half of the cases are reported. But we know domestic violence happens in bedroom communities like Pleasanton just like it happens in our more urban areas.”
The groups expressed concern, however, about the incident and the reporting of it.
“What happened in Pleasanton last week was a tragic failure of public safety. Under California law, resisting arrest is not punishable by death. It is a misdemeanor,” they said.
The groups pointed out, “Under California law, police officers are supposed to use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that the force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. There are questions whether it was necessary to shoot this person dead as he walked out of his front door with a kitchen knife.
“The media coverage of this case is quite disturbing. Some media reports seem to have quickly tried and convicted the man as a menace to society by listing his multiple arrests and presenting the testimony of the police attorney and a police practices expert telling us that the shooting was justified,” they maintain.
The groups argue that the case needs to be investigated by the AG.
Under state law, the AG is required to investigate any use of deadly force by police against an unarmed civilian.
However, they argue, “Even though the dead man in this case was armed with a kitchen knife, we still need an independent Attorney General investigation.”
The Democratic groups conclude, “We owe the family and the person who called the police, the Pleasanton community and the family of Cody Chavez, an independent and fair investigation of the facts, not a rush to judgment. Domestic violence should not be a death sentence. Not for the victim. And not for the perpetrator.”
“I am deeply concerned that media reports are being steered by the attorneys for the police officers involved in Mr. Chavez’s death. They are rushing to judgment,” added Price. “The Pleasanton police department is not being transparent. Witness accounts call into question the story that the media is trying to sell to the public. This tragic incident follows so closely the $5.9 million payout by the City of Pleasanton due to police misconduct that it must be properly investigated.”