Crime - Sacto 911

Controversial shooting of black man by Sacramento police ends with officers leaving force

Fifteen months after a deadly incident in which two Sacramento police officers attempted to hit a man with their vehicle before fatally shooting him, the department said it has concluded its internal investigation and neither officer remains on the force.

Police had previously confirmed that one of the officers involved in the shooting, Randy Lozoya, retired in April.

The second officer who fired eight of eighteen bullets, John Tennis, has been on paid administrative leave since May, though the department earlier took steps to fire him.

Tuesday was Tennis’ last day, said police Chief Daniel Hahn.

Hahn declined to say whether Tennis was fired or retired, or if he faced discipline as a result of the shooting, citing state privacy laws that bar him from commenting on personnel matters. Firing in the Sacramento Police Department is rare. In the last 10 years, the department has terminated only three sworn officers, according to a response to a Public Records Act request filed by The Bee.

“In some cases, such as this, I wish we could lay the whole thing out,” Hahn said. “I hope that people will trust that we will hold our folks accountable and we’re always looking to be on the cutting edge of how we interact with our community at their worst moments.”

While the circumstances around Tennis leaving the department after a 26-year career are murky, a separate report issued recently by the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability said the internal affairs investigation had “determined the officers’ actions violated several policies” in the Mann incident.

The author of that report, OPSA head Francine Tournour, said she was prohibited from giving details on what policies the officers broke but was hopeful the resolution and additional release of information would start “to rebuild some of the trust that the incident tore down.”

The shooting caused public uproar and months of protest from community members who felt Mann, who was black, was treated differently because of his race.

Community members also called for more training on interactions with mentally ill people. Mann’s family said he had been treated for mental health issues at two local facilities and had a history of mental illness.

He also had methamphetamine in his system when he was killed, according to the coroner’s report.

The Mann incident took place on July 11, 2016. It began when neighbors near the Woodlake area called 911 about a man acting strangely and armed with a knife and gun. Responding officers located Mann, 50, as he walked through North Sacramento waving a pocket knife. Mann yelled threats at officers and refused to comply with their orders, but denied having a gun. No gun was ever found.

Tennis and Lozoya responded to the scene a few minutes after Mann reached Del Paso Boulevard and the duo quickly escalated the incident. Tennis and Lozoya attempted to hit Mann two times with their car when they first encountered him, based on dashcam footage released by the city.

“I’m going to hit him,” Tennis said in the audio.

“OK. Go for it. Go for it,” responded Lozoya.

The officers missed Mann with their vehicle, backed up, turned and attempted again to hit him, based on the video. They then exited their vehicle and pursued him on foot.

Within a minute of arriving at the scene, the two officers had killed Mann.

In the months after the shooting, the Sacramento City Council passed a series of police reforms, including the mandated release of video in officer-involved shootings and some other incidents within 30 days of an encounter. It also moved the Office of Public Safety Accountability from the city manager’s purview to that of the City Council to give it greater autonomy to conduct civilian investigations.

The city purchased body cameras for officers and all but 10 sworn officers are now using them, said Hahn. Hahn said the remaining officers are “stragglers to get to the training.”

The Mann shooting also led to tens of thousands of dollars being spent on “less lethal” equipment for all patrol officers, including pepper ball guns, beanbag shotgun rounds and 40 millimeter launchers, which fire a less-lethal ammunition. None of those alternative weapons were available when Mann was shot, said Hahn.

Officers have also been paid overtime to complete a five-hour training on how to de-escalate tense situations using the new equipment. The Police Department has also updated its Use of Force and Discharge of Firearms policies since the shooting to require officers to use lethal force as a last resort.

“Today, as a police department, and as members of the Police Department, we in my mind are definitely better equipped to handle incidents like that so we don’t have the tragic end result that happened,” Hahn said.

In addition to finding that Tennis and Loyoza had violated police policies, the Tournour report also noted that senior police officials did not review the Mann incident for three months after it occurred, and the internal affairs investigation didn’t start until after that senior-level review. The report also says that police management ordered the internal investigation to stop and restart several times but does not explain why.

The report also says that the internal affairs investigation was completed 10 months after it began, putting it at odds with the announcement from the department today saying that it had just recently been completed.

Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a department spokesman, said the internal investigation was drawn out by a civil lawsuit filed against the city by Mann’s father and because the department’s officers had to wait for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office to conclude its criminal investigation into the shooting.

The district attorney’s review of the shooting, which was completed in January, cleared both officers of any legal wrongdoing.

Mann’s father settled a suit with the city for $719,000 in February.

Tennis, a patrol officer for most of his career, has faced other controversy in the past.

In 1997, he was involved in a car chase that ended in the death of Albert Glenn Thiel after Tennis placed him in a controversial neck restraint that some departments at the time classified as lethal force.

The coroner later ruled Thiel’s death a homicide, saying he was killed by pressure or a blow to his throat that cut off his airway, but said it could not be confirmed that Tennis’ hold was the cause. The coroner also cited cocaine and alcohol in Thiel’s system as possible contributing factors. The Sacramento County district attorney declined to bring charges in the case and labeled it “an unfortunate accident.”

Tennis also was the subject of a claim against the city by Lovell Sturgis Brown in 2000 for false arrest or imprisonment. The city settled that claim for $10,000, the city attorney said previously.

In 2013, Tennis approached the department to ask for help with an alcohol problem, according to a letter he wrote to a superior contained in court records.

The department conducted an internal affairs investigation and waived a 40-hour suspension in favor of allowing Tennis to get in-patient treatment and participate in ongoing Alcoholics Anonymous meetings when he returned to duty, according to documentation contained in court records. Tennis participated in those meetings until at least April 2015, according to court records.

Mann’s siblings recently filed another lawsuit to find out if Tennis and Lozoya were disciplined in the Mann shooting and if any departmental changes had been made in the aftermath of the incident, and if the department had reacted appropriately in retaining Tennis in a high-stress assignment after his treatment for alcohol abuse.

That suit is ongoing.

Robert Mann, Joseph Mann’s younger brother, said Wednesday that he is “very happy” that the city concluded its investigation by finding fault with the officers’ conduct but wants more details and reforms.

“The actions of Tennis and Lozoya are unacceptable,” he said “These types of officers, we don’t want, we don’t need and I’m thankful they’re gone.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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