Two Sacramento police officers attempted to run over a mentally ill homeless man with their car less than 35 seconds before they shot and killed him, according to recordings released by police this month.
One of the officers says “f--- this guy” in the frantic final minute before they shot Joseph Mann on Del Paso Boulevard. Moments later, the driver says, “I’m going to hit him.”
“OK. Go for it. Go for it,” his partner responds.
During that sequence, the officers gunned their vehicle toward Mann, backed up, turned and then drove toward him again, based on dashcam video released by police. They stopped the car, ran toward Mann on foot and shot him 14 times.
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The July 11 incident has sparked protest from local religious and black leaders, who say Sacramento Police Department officers escalated the situation and unnecessarily resorted to lethal force.
The content of the dashcam audio was first reported by the Sacramento News and Review. The Bee reviewed the clip of Officers Randy Lozoya and John Tennis after enhancing the audio to highlight their voices.
The dashcam video was released Sept. 20 after The Sacramento Bee obtained surveillance footage from a private citizen that showed the officers shooting Mann. Within an hour of The Bee posting the footage online, Sacramento police called a news conference to release video from three dashboard cameras as well as audio from two 911 calls and other information.
Lozoya and Tennis are currently on “modified duty,” according to police spokesman Bryce Heinlein.
“They are officers that shouldn’t be in uniform,” said Robert Mann, Joseph Mann’s brother, after learning the contents of the audio. “If this is their state of mind when they go to work, this doesn’t serve anyone well.”
John Burris, lawyer for the Mann family, called the officers’ conduct “cowboyish” and “outrageous.” The Mann family has filed a federal lawsuit and a claim against the city, and Burris said he will amend that complaint in coming days to include the attempt to hit Mann with the car.
Burris said a car should be considered a lethal weapon and therefore should have been used as a weapon only if officers felt Mann posed an imminent threat to officers or others.
Heinlein said police training does include using vehicles as a weapon.
“That is something we discuss in our use-of-force training, using a vehicle as a deadly weapon,” he said.
Heinlein said he is “not aware” of any department training in the use of a vehicle as a nonlethal weapon.
“We don’t go up and try and bump somebody, but it could be used as lethal or nonlethal,” he said.
Police were called to the scene after residents at a nearby apartment complex reported that Mann was acting erratically. They arrived about five minutes before Lozoya and Tennis shot him dead.
It was four days after a sniper shot five police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas. That came after national unrest over police shootings of a black man in Louisiana and another in Minnesota.
Dispatchers told officers that Mann was seen with a knife and a gun. Police have never reported finding a gun but did canvass the area.
In dashcam footage from the first patrol car to arrive on the scene, Mann tells officers he does not have a gun. In that video, an officer says, “Get your hands up and get on the ground. They said you had a gun. Get on the ground.”
Mann: “I don’t have a gun.”
Officer: “Get on the ground. Get on the ground.”
Mann did not comply and continued to move away from those officers, who pursued him at a slow speed, trying to de-escalate the situation.
Mann made his way to Del Paso Boulevard. He yelled threats at police and threw a thermos at their car as he went. Police repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife with a 4-inch blade, but he did not drop it.
In the dashcam video from the car used by Lozoya and Tennis, the officers attempt to hit Mann as he crosses a side street but miss him. The car screeches, reverses and then turns onto Del Paso Boulevard to continue the pursuit.
As Mann runs across Del Paso Boulevard, one of the officers says, “Watch it! Watch it! Watch!”
In the next audible clip, an officer says, “We’ll get him. We’ll get him.” They stop the car, exit and then chase Mann on foot.
Seconds later, they fired 18 shots at Mann, hitting him with 14, according to Somers. Their gunfire is heard on the dashcam video. Measurements taken by The Bee based on the officers’ position in the video put them about 27 feet away from Mann when they began firing.
Somers later said a toxicology report found methamphetamine in Mann’s system.
The Mann case, along with other shootings by police across the country, has prompted the Sacramento City Council to propose a use-of-force policy designed to restrict lethal force. Those policies were made public Tuesday and will be debated Oct. 13. Other council members are calling for quicker release of video in police shootings, greater powers for a civilian oversight commission and other reforms.
Councilman Allen Warren, who pushed for release of video in the Mann case, had not heard the audio as of Friday morning. He said, “To have that kind of dialogue going on that leads to the death of a person who clearly had challenges but did not appear to be … threatening to the police officers. ... It is extremely disturbing.”