Community members and family of Sahleem Tindle, a 28-year-old father of two, killed by a BART Police officer in January, packed a BART meeting March 12, to demand that justice be served.
Tindle’s family pleaded, yelled and cried over the lack of action by BART following Tindle’s death on Jan. 3 outside the West Oakland BART Station. Tindle’s family and legal team are calling for the city of Oakland to arrest and charge the involved BART officer, Joseph Mateu, with murder.
“This family should be grieving,” said Elizabeth Fitzer, a member of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), an organization committed to ending violence against minorities by local and state police. She argued that Tindle’s family should be mourning his death instead of having to work to have his killer arrested and arraigned. “They should be allowed the time and the space to deal with the fact that they’ve lost a child—a nephew; a cousin; a brother; a father.”
Fitzer, along with members of Tindle’s family and community, addressed the BART Police Citizen Review Board (BPCRB), an organization of BART-appointed members who represent community concerns.
Other members of the community accused BART with releasing conflicting reports to the media and misrepresenting what occured.
“We are saddened by the first lie, that was initiated by [the Oakland Police Department] on Jan. 3, 2018, stating Sahleem Tindle had a gun in his hand and was shot and killed because he refused to put the gun down,” said Asale Chandler, who read a statement written by Tindle’s mother, Yolanda Banks Reed.
The official statement from the Oakland Police Department conflicts with the footage from Mateu’s body camera, which was released by BART Police last month. Tindle was fighting with another man across the street from the West Oakland BART Station when Mateu approached after residents told him that shots had been fired. Gun drawn, Mateu’s body camera footage shows him shouting “Let me see your hands” just seconds before shooting Tindle in the back three times. The footage also shows a gun-like object on the ground, but doesn’t indicate who the gun belonged to.
“I am truly disturbed by this reckless, uncalled for force of action that occured in broad daylight right in front of his wife and two young children,” said Kanikah LeMon-Jones, one of Tindle’s former teachers. “I know I speak for all too many parents and loved ones of these African Americans, males and Sahleem Tindle in particular—where they’re killed at the hands of the police and others.”
“Where are the days where police would aim for an arm or a leg to disable a suspect?” she continued. “These officers shoot to kill. My students are afraid to ride BART and public transportation in fear of being shot and killed.”
George Perezvelez, a member of BPCRB representing Oakland’s District 9, headed the meeting and reminded the rest of the committee to remain impartial, but to speak from the heart. He expressed sympathy for the family’s loss.
“I want to respond as a Brown person and as a father,” Perezvelez said.
Crystal Brown-Hamilton, Tindle’s cousin, addressed the committee.
“Do you know what it feels like as a person of color, as a mother of color, to have to go through [this] procedure with a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old to know what to do if they are stopped by an officer?” asked Brown-Hamilton. “We went through scenarios with a 13-year-old… that your goal is to make it home alive.”
The climax of the meeting occurred when Iysis Levi, age 7, approached the the podium, which was taller than her.
“I just want to know why you shot him,” Levi said to the silent room, which immediately erupted into applause. The audience stood and pointed at BART Chief of Police Carlos Rojas, demanding that he answer the question.
Those in attendance took issue with Rojas calling Mateu’s actions “courageous” last month.
Rojas commented that he knew little of the criminal investigation, as it was being conducted by the Oakland Police Department. When Mateu crossed the street from the West Oakland BART Station, he entered the OPD’s jurisdiction.
Story by: Aaron Levy-Wolins