Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The evolution of an officer-involved shooting

The Riverside Police Department has provided more information on the fatal officer-involved shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud on Oct. 8, 2006 at approximately 4 p.m. on Indiana Avenue.

Police: Shooting victim ignores orders

The headline of the article itself is certain to create some controversy. The news editor(who comes up with headlines for articles, not the reporter for those readers who wish to complain about either headline) referred to Cloud as a "shooting victim" in this headline. That is in contrast to the headline of the story the newspaper printed the day after the shooting, on Oct. 9, which referred to Cloud as a "robbery suspect", a development which also elicited some phone calls here.

The police department's contention is that Cloud was an "attempted robbery suspect". It provided an initial account of what it had called, a robbery in process soon after the shooting. According to that account, the following events took place at the Home Depot on Indiana and Madison.

Customers intervened when Cloud tried to steal merchandise from the Home Depot at Indiana Avenue and Madison Street. There was a struggle at his car, but Cloud managed to escape, driving away from the parking lot at high speed. Cloud lost control and crashed just a few blocks from the store.

Officers responding to a "robbery in progress" at Home Depot spotted the crash and recognized Cloud as the suspect.

That version was provided by Sgt. Leon Phillips to the Press Enterprise, in its third article. An earlier article with this title, Riverside Police shoot, kill robbery suspect provided this account of the incident in Home Depot also by Phillips.

Sgt. Leon Phillips, of the Riverside Police Department, said the man tried to steal a large piece of equipment from the Home Depot at Indiana Avenue and Madison Street and some people at the store intervened. There was a struggle over the item and the man sped away in an older Toyota Celica, Phillips said.

In this later version of the events, there is no specifics provided in terms of whether the individuals who tried to stop Cloud from stealing equipment from the Home Depot were customers or employees. Whether it was employees trying to prevent the theft of their merchandise or customers acting as good Samaritans who intervened in the commission of a petty or grand theft from the store, that has not been clarified at this point. Further information about the struggle over the stolen item in the parking lot has shed some light but more information needs to be known.

The Los Angeles Times referred to Cloud in its own article,Officer had basis to shoot shoplifting suspect as a "fleeing shoplifter", apparently basing its decision to do so on the fact that to date, no gun or other weapon has been uncovered.


Police say the pursuit began after Cloud left the checkout line at the Home Depot without paying for the carpet cleaner. As he walked toward his 1984 Toyota Celica, which was waiting in the parking lot with its rear hatch open, customers and employees chased him and tried to keep him from getting into the car. Witnesses told police Cloud pushed through the customers in the parking lot, shoving one man to the ground, and sped from store so quickly that several bystanders had to be yanked out of his path. He lost control of the car a short distance away after destroying a small palm tree and skidding into a pickup truck.

Hopefully, in the weeks and months ahead, the police department's and Community Police Review Commission's investigations will be able to get to the bottom of this issue through examining all the available evidence and eyewitness statements of what actually took place at the Home Depot store and what information about that incident was actually dispatched to the four police officers who responded to the incident. Because it is fairly clear that given their initial response at the scene of the car accident, they were likely responding to a "robbery in process" call. Robbery in layman terms is the seizure of property from the possession of someone else by force or threat of force or harm to that person and other people with him. When most people hear the term "robbery", many people associate the term with a weapon, though that might not necessarily be the case.

Was it truly a robbery in progress or was it an interrupted petty or grand theft? If the property was seized off a store shelf or display area and not from a person through violence or threat of violence, is that still a robbery? Can a store shelf or display area be robbed? These questions and others will have to be answered through further investigation by the police department and the Community Police Review Commission, which dispatched its investigator Butch Warnberg out to the scene today.

But if the police officers were called to respond to a robbery in progress whether that was the case or not, then that's the mindset they likely brought to the scene of the smashed car by the palm tree, with Cloud sitting inside. After all, they had been driving to the store to respond to the "robbery in process" and had come across what had apparently been described to them as the getaway car. And sitting inside the car, dazed or not, was the "robber".

For reference purposes, the definition of "robbery" is the following, according to the state's penal code at the following Web site:

California State Code

211. Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.

212. The fear mentioned in Section 211 may be either:

1. The fear of an unlawful injury to the person or property of the person robbed, or of any relative of his or member of his family; or,

2. The fear of an immediate and unlawful injury to the person or property of anyone in the company of the person robbed at the time of the robbery.

No weapon was found in the car, according to the department's public information officer, Steven Frasher and so far, that part of the story has remained constant. He did state that the entire car still needed to be searched, two days after the shooting occurred.

Further in the latest Press Enterprise article, the department explained why at least one officer and possibly more fired their weapons at Cloud while he was sitting in his vehicle, which had just collided at high speed near a used car dealer shop. His hand was reaching to the central console, he was trying to "flee" the scene and he was in earlier versions, "ignoring" and in later versions, "refusing" to respond to orders by the police officers. The two words used have different meanings.

Witnesses to the shooting in the Press Enterprise articles said that Cloud did not appear responsive even when one of them ran up to the driver's side of the smashed vehicle to render him assistance. Witness Ted Brown stated in the initial news article that the four officers had approached the vehicle, with guns drawn. They then appeared to reach in the car as if to pull Cloud out. One officer fired his gun. The four of them jumped backwards, before three more shots were fired, possibly by the same police officer.

Witnesses at the scene said Cloud seemed to be dazed from the high-speed crash, which demolished the car. They said four officers approached the car with guns drawn and reached inside as if they were trying to pull the man out. Moments later, they said, police opened fire.

In the Los Angeles Times article, from Oct. 11, the department released its latest update on the shooting through its public information office.

Three officers, who had matched the crashed vehicle with the description from witnesses at the Home Depot, said Cloud refused to respond to orders as they walked toward the vehicle with their guns drawn. When Cloud refused to get out of the car, one of the three officers tried to pull him out of the window, police said. After being partly pulled out of the car, police say, Cloud jerked himself free and hit the accelerator while turning the steering wheel side to side in what police believed was an attempt to get away.

Steven Frasher, a police spokesman, said one of the officers shot Cloud four times after seeing him reach continually for the front-seat center console. A second officer shot Cloud once.

"The officers' statements were that he kept reaching for that console with such insistence that they were worried that there could be a weapon there that he was reaching for," Frasher said. He added that the officers said they feared he would run over at least one of them if his car gained traction.

Initial reports from the witnesses had stated that there were four police officers onscene at the shooting, yet in Frasher's statement, only three of them are mentioned as having provided information for this version. Was there actually a fourth officer onscene and what was his or her statement, if he or she did indeed provide one?

One of the witnesses cited by the Times was a car dealership owner named Curtis Neal who had seen the shooting from 150 feet away. Although sunlight reflecting off the vehicle prevented him from seeing Cloud, Neal believed the shooting was justified, because he felt the officers would not have shot Cloud unless they saw something that scared them. The officer who had apparently been the first to shoot Cloud had held his gun on him for over a minute, Neal said, while the other officers were pulling him out of the car.

The police department has also decided not to release the name of the officers nor their number of years in the department who were involved in the shooting, citing the Copeley Press vs San Diego Superior Court decision found here. The city had been presented with the ruling by the Riverside Police Officers Association and was taking it under review. Community members merely shrugged at the news, which was not really news. Many people view the RPD and tranparency as being two separate things anyway. Several people wondered why the department did not just state that the officers were not involved in prior shootings instead of being vague in its response. To answer that would require a long explanation on what city department inside City Hall is actually micromanaging the department, while allowing the RPOA to believe it's in control of its charges' privacy.

Officers' names not released

The Press Enterprise conducted a survey here on the shooting. Many people left written responses expressing their opinions of the shooting.

Some individuals criticized it, calling it excessive force.

Her name was Tyisha Miller, though that was thought to be a 'racial act' it still has yet to be seen that the Riverside PD has made any improvements to thier task force. Riverside police officers carry tiny digital devices to record every encounter, and have a cache of nonlethal weapons at their disposal and can tap veteran commanders at any time to guide them though volatile situations. Why was a 'non-lethal' weapon not used, there is more justice in punishment of the crime then murdering the offender. It is still unbelieveable to me that Riverside PD has yet to do ANYTHING to better their tactics and gain the trust of their community. After all what the hell am I paying all these taxes for ($16.1 million just on outside legal council for the Tyisha Miller trial).

The Riverside PD has never admit to any wrong doing (but why did they fire all four officers involved after the fact?) and I don't expect them to do so in this case. I just hope this case is smeared all over the media to shine the light (yet again) on those who are there to 'serve and protect' our community. So much for living up to that slogan.

I cannot understand why we don't have Police Officers who can use more restraint against excessive force. The man they shot is someones brother, son or father. What if that was our son or brother? How would we feel? Didn't this suspect deserve to have his right to life? He committed a petty theft and crashed his car. He was not responsive to the Car Dealer Manager who came to his aid. And yet he was a treat to four armed officers? The car was not in a condition to be driven off from the scene. The Dealer Manager said the driver was slumped over the wheel. His foot had the unfortune to be placed on the accelerator as the driver slumped over unresponsive. I hope I don't get in a car accident, be unresponsive and have been shot by a Police Officer. I wonder how the Officer can sleep at night. I am sure the other three officers were upset with the officer who killed the suspect. However, they have to back him up. It's their job. And that places them in the same position as the officer who did pull the trigger. Appalled in Riverside

According to the newspaper story 10-9-06, eye witnesses at the scene said he had just crashed his car (see photo of totalled car) and was dazed and unable to do anything. They saw him slumped over the steering wheel. When police arrived four officers surrounded the car attempting to get him out and one of them shot the man--four times. Other witnesses said he was just sitting there and they shot him. They did not find a gun in his car. He likely ignored the police orders due to the massive brain injuries he sustained upon impact with the palm tree shown fallen over in the photo. It takes great force to knock a palm tree down. This young man attempted to steal something, and sounds like he was not a good thief, got scared and ran away. I'm not condoning what he did but surely he did not deserve to die. Jail time yes- death, no way! Clearly, excessive force was used against him and the officer needs to be punished for killing a 27 year old!

Others wrote that it was wrong to second-guess the decisions made by the officers in a split-second. Or they thought it was worth it to get a hardcore criminal off the streets.

There is not enough facts put out. The only thing I know is that the police officers are alive and by killing this suspect probobly saved them. Police officers put their lives on the line everyday. I'd do the same to save my own. A weopan could be anything: a piece of string, broken glass. Maybe he had AIDS and had a syringe. The suspect should have thought "is this worth my life". Quit blaming law enforcement. What could have the suspect do or not do to save his life. If you run from the police you will get shot. If you ram into the police you will get shot. If you grab or reach for something you will get shot. Hello dont blame the police for the suspects stupidity and choices. One less bad guy off the street, hey how many lives have been saved by doing that. Well our streets are safer to me a life is worth that.

Absolutely not. In the game of life and death, which police officers must confront every day, day after day, it is not up to we-the-public to second guess the actions and reactions of any officer. What they see in those terrifying tenths of seconds, when faced with the specter of death looming over their heads, is not up to we, the armchair quaterbacks of Riverside, or any other city, to second guess. I was not there. You were not there. What those officers saw was obviously terrifying enough to push them across that most dreaded of all lines, and pull the trigger and potentially end some one's life. That is not an action they want to make any more than you or I want to. The fact is, an officer was confronted with something he knew, in that instant of time, was going to end his life or the lives of others. In a split of a second, a decision had to be made. If any one used excessive force in this whole sad affair, it was the robber in the vehicle. After fighting with the Home Depot employees who were just trying to do thier jobs, then driving like a bat out of hell to get away, he indangered who knows how many people with his actions in order to save himself from going to jail. If he had struck and killed some one in the resulting crash, would we be asking the same question of "excessive force" in regards to him?

Someone was either being sarcastic or believed that the shooting was the apparent solution to the "war on drugs".

Shooting a meth-head after shoplifting is always justified!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another individual who claimed to have been near the scene appeared to take issue with it but decided that the ends justified the means.


I'm not sure what to even say about people who back the police officers by saying "Good job, RPD" or thank you for getting rid of a thief, shoplifter or a robber as if they were cheering a touchdown at a football game and that the actions of "last resort" taken have no consequences on everyone involved.

That line of thinking kind of reminds me of the "one less n-----" flier that was posted throughout the downtown pedestrian mall after the Tyisha Miller shooting. On that flier, were the words, "Keep up the good work RPD".


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