BART Police Officer Joseph Mateu was justified in shooting and killing Sahleem Tindle on Jan. 3, the Alameda County District Attorney has concluded.
In a report made public today, the DA’s inspectors wrote that “the credible and admissible evidence shows that Officer Mateu acted in what he actually and reasonably believed to be self-defense and defense of others. The examined evidence does not support the contention that the shooting of Mr. Tindle was criminal.”
The DA’s finding means that Mateu will not face criminal charges for shooting Tindle.
“I’m not surprised by the result,” said attorney John Burris, who is representing Tindle’s family. “I never expected them to prosecute.”
Tindle’s family has maintained ever since the shooting that he did not fire a gun, and that he was shot in the back by Mateu while defending himself from an unidentified assailant. They have protested at BART board meetings and called on District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to criminally charge Mateu. The family has also filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
According to witness statements referred to in the DA’s report, Tindle was walking to the West Oakland BART Station on Jan. 3 with his fiancee, two young children, and his fiancee’s sister when he got into an argument with another man. The two ended up wrestling on the sidewalk outside a barber shop and taqueria.
Police say two shots were fired. Officer Mateu heard the shots while he was in the BART Station. He ran out of the train station about one block away and found the men grappling.
According to the DA’s report, which is based on interviews with 14 witnesses, ballistics evidence, body camera video and other surveillance footage, Tindle was clutching a gun when he was shot and killed.
Burris said that Mateu wasn’t justified in killing Tindle because he couldn’t have known who fired the shots or who was the aggressor.
“Notwithstanding any of that, this officer ran up, he didn’t know who did what, but it looks like they’re wrestling, maybe over a gun, and he shoots this kid,” said Burris. “In the very least, you have a negligent act here.”
The DA’s investigators conducted a 3D forensic frame analysis of Mateu’s body camera video in an effort to understand whether the officer’s statements about the gun being located in Tindle’s right hand were consistent with the footage. They determined that the video did not “reveal any material inconsistencies” with Mateu’s statement about the shooting, and that “Mr. Tindle likely had the pistol in his right hand at the time of the shooting.”
However, the investigators also noted in their report that a gunshot residue test of Tindle’s hands failed to reveal any sign that he fired the pistol that was recovered from the scene.
But the man that Tindle was wrestling with when he was shot did have gunshot residue on his hands, consistent with having fired a pistol.
DNA evidence collected from the grip of the pistol was determined to be that of Tindle. Three other people’s DNA was also detected on the gun, but their identities were not disclosed in the report.
The man Tindle was wrestling has never been named by the police. He is referred to by the DA’s inspectors only as “Witness #1.”
He sustained a gunshot wound to his leg as a result of the incident. OPD ballistics experts determined that the man’s leg wound was attributed to the gun found on the scene, and not Mateu’s weapon.
Witness #1 initially ran away from the scene of the shooting. When he was later located by Oakland police, who led the criminal investigation of the incident, the man told police that the fight that led up to the fatal shooting was started over a pair of black and pink women’s Air Jordan shoes. The man claimed that he mistakenly left the shoes on the sidewalk and that Tindle picked them up. After the man asked Tindle to give the shoes back to him, he claimed Tindle drew a gun on him.
But Tindle’s fiancee told investigators that Witness #2 started the fight by approaching Tindle and asking about “some Jordans.” He then attempted to tackle Tindle.
At that point Mateu ran up on the two men as they were wrestling. According to the DA’s report, she told investigators “that she also yelled for the officer to not shoot, but to ‘hit him with the baton.'” but “the officer was pointing his gun primarily at Mr. Tindle. The officer then fired two times.”
Other witnesses also said the two men were fighting over a pair of shoes. According to the DA’s report, several witnesses told the police that Tindle drew the handgun from his waist during the argument.
The Tindle family’s lawsuit was filed on Sept. 19 in federal district court. It alleges that a man identified as “Rayvelle” was “in an apparent position of physical advantage standing over [Tindle]” when officer Mateu shot and killed Tindle.
“Our decision to go forward is not affected in the least by the DA’s report,” Burris said about the status of the lawsuit.