Dear Attorney General Bonta:
I am writing on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Justice (CC4J), a volunteer citizen action group based in Chico. CC4J formed in 2017 after the officer involved shooting death of Desmond Phillips, a young black man experiencing a mental health crisis. Shortly after we formed, another young man, Tyler Rushing, was also killed by Chico police. We are reaching out to you in the wake of newly released information regarding the Desmond Phillips and Tyler Rushing incidents
Below and attached is a letter describing troubling actions and lack of action by Butte County DA Mike Ramsey and the Chico Police 'Department, which CC4J thinks warrants your attention .
A little background: David Phillips and Scott Rushing, fathers of the two slain young men, each filed complaints with AG Bercerra's office, which were denied. Mr. Rushing has since filed a complaint with your office; he awaits your response. The information that activated CC4J to contact you came out in August/September of this year, published by the online news platform, ChicoSol.org. This was after Rushing had filed his complaint with you.
We at CC4J hope you will look closely at the information in our letter and in the articles we reference. We look forward to hearing from you.
OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING DEATHS IN CHICO/BUTTE COUNTY, CA Police Reform Group Calls for Independent Patterns and/or Practice Investigations “To do Justice, as no one is above the Law, nor beneath its protection” - These inspiring words, prominent on the home page of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey’s website, suggest that justice is well-served by law enforcement in Butte County. Unfortunately, information has come to light that challenges the veracity of such a claim. Ramsey has served as Butte County DA for 34 years. During this time there have been 37 officer-involved shooting deaths (OIS), all of which Ramsey found to be justified. 100% exonerations over 34 years suggest a troubling pattern, and calls into question whether bias may have influenced these decisions. Dave Waddell, a journalist with ChicoSol.org, a digital news platform, decided to dig deeper. Waddell recently published three articles in ChicoSol * focused on the 2017 OIS of Desmond Phillips and Tyler Rushing. In his research he dug up info on numerous incidents that are omitted from Ramsey’s official reports. These omissions and lack of transparency raise the question whether the officer exonerations were justified. Might Desmond and Tyler be alive today if the officers had made different decisions? Two incidents from Waddell’s articles which were not included in the official incident reports: 1) The day after Desmond Phillips was killed, video-taped interviews were held by investigators separately with each of the three involved officers. Each reported different versions of what occurred in the moments before Desmond was shot. Eighteen days later Ramsey held a “group-interview” with the officers, in Ramsey’s words, “to see also if anything that one says sparks a memory… don’t substitute one person’s memory for the others’…” According to Professor Seth Stoughton, a nationally recognized expert on police practices, to interview witnesses in a group setting risks contaminating evidence and undermines the integrity of the investigation. 2) In the case of Tyler Rushing, he was shot twice by one of the officers, in the trachea and the upper back. According to the report, the officer who shot him stated that he shot Tyler because he “wasn’t going down”. Yet video footage obtained by Waddell reveals that another officer was holding Tyler up with both hands. This officer stated that he “was about to ‘sweep’ [Tyler] to the floor” when the second officer rushed in and shot him. This information and video footage was absent from Ramsey’s official report. In addition there were multiple discrepancies in the testimony of the two officers, and blatant mishandling of an out-of-control K9 who was off leash, repeatedly biting Tyler in the moments before he was shot. Waddell submitted numerous California Public Records Act requests to obtain this information and finally resorted to threatening a lawsuit before getting results. Nine months later, Waddell still awaits reams of requested information, some of which were reported "not retained" by Chico PD. These yet-to-be-released materials include videos of the OIS killing of Stephen Vest by Chico PD in October 2020. According to CA law SB1421, noncompliance with California Public Records Act requests is illegal,** yet Waddell was repeatedly stonewalled. It is also a violation of the law for law enforcement agencies to discard evidence. Democracy depends on transparency and accountability of law enforcement. Revelations of discrepancies in testimony, records of OIS incidents withheld from the public, possible manipulation of evidence and more, suggest a pattern and/or practice that places law enforcement above the law and endangers the lives of the people of Chico/Butte County, CA. Concerned Citizens for Justice, a Chico-based police reform group, (www.cc4jchico.org), calls on CA Attorney General Rob Bonta to conduct an independent investigation into these OIS cases as indicators that more broad-based Pattern-and/or-Practice Investigations of DA Ramsey and the Chico Police are warranted. Respectfully, Emily Alma, on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Justice Chico, CA, 530 864-0714
* http://chicosol.org/2021/08/06/videos-withheld-rushing-family-suit/ http://chicosol.org/2021/08/22/tyler-rushing-grasp-deputy-shot-cop/ http://chicosol.org/2021/09/22/desmonds-killers-told-inconsistent-stories/ ** Senate Bill 1421, Peace Officers: Release of Records is a California state law that makes policerecords relating to officer use-of-force incidents, sexual assault, and acts of dishonesty accessible under the California Public Records Act. CC: Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey Chico Chief of Police Matt Madden Chico City Manager Mark Orme US Senator Dianne Feinstein US Senator Alex Padilla California Governor Gavin Newsom Attorney General Merrick Garland, , U.S. Department of Justice California District Attorney Association California State Bar Association