Last April, on an especially windy spring night, longtime Berkeley transient Kevin Freeman was hanging out along his usual stretch of Telegraph Avenue. He was drunk, and his condition made walking difficult. But instead of heading across the Cal campus to the doorway he’d been sleeping in for the previous six months, he sat down on a wide section of sidewalk near Blake Street and continued to drink, adding steadily to a collection of empty beer cans and bottles next to him.
Two UC police officers, Corporal Christine Olivet and Officer Andrew Brown, were patrolling the area and recognized the 55-year-old. Brown asked for ID, and Freeman, with slurred speech, said he had none, but offered his name and birth date. A records check showed he was on probation for repeated public drinking infractions and that an Alameda Superior Court judge had ordered him to stay away from a 24-square-block area known as “the box,” which stretches six blocks south from the Berkeley campus to Parker Street. Because Freeman was wasted inside the restricted area, the cops took him into custody.
The officers didn’t know it then, but it was the last time they’d ever see Kevin Freeman.
The homeless man couldn’t stand on his own, so Olivet and Brown helped him to his feet. Brown then cuffed Freeman’s hands behind his back and tried to hold him upright for the short walk to the squad car. Despite the assistance, a yawing Freeman pitched sideways and fell over.
It was yet another ignominious episode for a man who, decades earlier, seemed to have a bright future. Freeman grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of Enola, Pennsylvania. While attending McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, he broke several school swimming records and won a state swimming championship in the backstroke. He later graduated second in his class from Trinity High School and received a full academic scholarship to La Salle University. In the eyes of his younger brother, Terry Freeman, Kevin was the all-American boy. “He had a very dry sense of humor, not loud or obnoxious, just very wry, and he was appreciated for it,” Terry recalls. “He was very smart and very popular.”
But in his late teens and early twenties, the young man began to withdraw. Doctors at Harrisburg State Hospital diagnosed Kevin with schizophrenia, a condition that was never treated. Shortly after the diagnosis, he left college and headed West with a girlfriend, seeking the dodgy promise of a free-spirited hippie lifestyle. For Kevin, that fleeting dream deteriorated into a 27-year spiral of mental illness, homelessness, and chronic alcoholism.
Kevin still called his elderly mother in Pennsylvania several times a year, but rarely spoke with his brothers, Terry and Brian, or the two daughters he fathered during the 1970s. He apparently had no close friends in Berkeley, although hundreds who lived and worked around Telegraph and Euclid avenues recognized him as the quiet homeless man with the long gray hair and shaggy beard, who always wore red high-top tennis shoes.
“I saw him almost every day sitting on Euclid in front of La Val’s or the vacant copy shop,” recalls Deborah Tatto, an international student coordinator with UC Berkeley. “He would sit on the sidewalk with his hands clasped around his knees and never bothered anybody. His vibe was quiet, quiet.”
Freeman was no angel, of course. In recent years, while drunk, he racked up a few misdemeanor battery charges related to resisting arrest. He also was arrested on a felony drug charge back in 1985, but Freeman has no record of violent behavior in Alameda County. For the most part, he was a harmless drunk who became such a regular customer of the Berkeley police that some of the beat cops developed affection for him. According to police spokeswoman Mary Kusmiss, who has personally busted Freeman on several occasions, officers have cited or arrested him more than fifty times in recent years for public drinking. “He could be a little difficult when he was very drunk, but for the most part he was friendly, cooperative, and even quite charming,” she says.
When he did get hauled in and charged, a Superior Court judge would typically sentence Freeman to thirty days at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, a facility run by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. There he’d take advantage of the opportunity to dry out, but once back on the streets, Freeman would be unable to overcome the demons of mental illness, and would inevitably be drawn back into the cycle of alcohol abuse.
Only this time around, something went terribly wrong.
On May 8, deputies in Santa Rita’s Behavioral Health Unit, the jail’s psychiatric wing, made a colossal blunder. Someone — the sheriff’s department won’t yet say who — put the older alcoholic in a double cell with twenty-year-old Ryan Lee Raper, a mentally unstable young man who was being held on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. To make things worse, Raper had recently attacked two former cellmates for no apparent reason. One of the court-appointed psychologists who evaluated Raper called him “a time bomb waiting for someplace to explode.”
That place, it turned out, was Pod B, Cell 9 of the Behavioral Health Unit, and as fate would have it, Kevin Freeman was there to absorb the force of the blast. Freeman’s lifeless body was found in a pool of blood on the cell floor just after three o’clock the next morning. According to court documents, he was beaten so severely that an Alameda County coroner compared his injuries to those suffered by plane crash victims.
The slaying, the second in the Behavioral Health Unit in thirteen months, has sparked an internal administrative review to determine whether the jail has been following state-mandated procedures for cell assignments — the Californian Code of Regulations requires all prisons, jails, and juvenile halls to assign inmates to cells according to age, crimes, criminal sophistication, and violent tendencies. By these standards, Freeman and Raper had absolutely no business being in the same part of the jail, let alone the same cell.
Making things worse for the authorities are unanswered questions as to why deputies didn’t intervene in the beating, which witnesses say went on for at least twenty minutes while Freeman screamed for help and inmates in nearby cells tried in vain to summon deputies on the jail’s intercom system.
Santa Rita Jail is a sprawling, state-of-the-art facility that, according to sheriff’s spokesman Lieutenant Jim Knudsen, is designed for maximum prisoner and staff safety. “But that’s not to say with four thousand prisoners there are not mistakes,” he says. “The nature of the beast is that from time to time, unfortunately, things happen.”
That’s not good enough for advocates of the homeless, who charge that Freeman’s death could have been easily avoided had Santa Rita deputies assigned the men according to state laws and the jail’s own policies. What’s more, they say, the incident raises the question of what a harmless, homeless alcoholic was doing at Santa Rita in the first place. “What Alameda County needs is a detox center for people like Kevin Freeman,” says Berkeley attorney Osha Neumann, who has long defended the rights of the homeless. “In any case, being put in jail for being drunk in public should not be a death sentence.”
There’s little question that Ryan Raper was unpredictable and violent.
Jail authorities knew it, and Raper’s old friends found it out early last February, when he returned to the working-class Union City neighborhood where he’d grown up. His return after a six-year absence wasn’t typical of a young man’s homecoming. He hadn’t graduated from college or scored a good job, and his estranged family had long since moved away. He came back jobless, homeless, and exhibiting signs that he was deeply troubled.
Raper turned up unannounced at the family home of twenty-year-old RJ Sansoni, who’d known Ryan since they were little kids. Their fathers, Rich Sansoni and Leroy Raper, were pals from way back who had settled in the same area to start their own families.
RJ and Ryan were also tight friends, at least until the Rapers moved to the Stockton area just prior to RJ’s freshman year at James Logan High. Even then, Ryan had some baggage. His mother abandoned the family when he was nine or ten, according to a court psychologist’s report, and Ryan had a stormy relationship with his stepmother. At school, according to Kenny Dauth, another childhood friend, Ryan once showed him welts on his back and shoulders, and told Kenny they were inflicted by the shoes of his stepmom. He seemed almost proud of it, Kenny says.
Ryan’s father, a steelworker in Stockton, adamantly denies that his wife Patricia had a difficult relationship with Ryan. Leroy Raper says he kicked his son out of the house when Ryan was eighteen, just as his father had done with him, but adds that he and his wife did their best. “Patty treated him like he was her own, and I did everything for that boy,” he says. “I supported him until he was eighteen, and he had a cush life here.” But after he left home about two years ago, Ryan began acting strangely, his dad says. “He began to get slow, mentally,” Leroy says. “He moved into a trailer camp in Angel’s Camp and had about ten different jobs. I don’t know what went wrong with him.”
Despite whatever problems he might have had at home, Ryan’s life growing up in Union City was apparently a reasonably happy time. “He was basically a normal kid,” RJ recalls. “His parents didn’t have a lot of money, but he was pretty average, he played baseball and basketball, he had some girlfriends, and he liked to work out.”
But RJ hadn’t seen or heard from his friend in six years, and when he did, it was immediately clear that Ryan was different. His clothes were worn and he was unresponsive or vague when RJ asked where he’d been living and working during the two years since Ryan’s parents had kicked him out of their house. “He had a garbage bag filled with some clothes, and no money,” RJ says. “He said he’d been working in a Mexican restaurant somewhere near Sacramento, but you really couldn’t get a straight answer from him about anything. He was not there in the head. If you asked what his favorite color was, he’d say ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
Psychiatrists who examined Ryan at Santa Rita would later diagnose him with schizophrenia, but RJ and his crew assumed Ryan’s odd behavior was the result of too many drugs, even though he’d never had the money to buy drugs, and rarely drank much more than half a beer, if that.
For old times’ sake, RJ’s parents offered Ryan a place to stay until he could get back on his feet. He slept on a couch in his old friend’s bedroom, and took to sleeping most of the day while RJ went to work as a union sheet-metal worker. “He wouldn’t make a mess, but he wasn’t helping out much around the house either,” RJ recalls.
More worrisome, Ryan had a scary new accessory, a large fixed-blade hunting knife, which he carried with him at all times and kept next to his head while he slept. And while the young man was mostly incoherent and impassive, he had a bedtime ritual that was disturbingly animated. “He would put his knife in his hand like he was in a knife fight,” RJ recalls. “He would be jumping around the room at 2 a.m. like he was dodging an imaginary foe, but he was serious. After a while I’d say ‘Alright, Ryan, go to sleep,’ and he’d wipe off the blade and go to sleep.”
Despite the bizarre nightly war dance, RJ said his parents and three siblings never felt threatened during the four weeks Ryan was a houseguest. But Dauth, 21, says Ryan’s appearance and blank stares could intimidate people who didn’t know him. “He had two expressions,” another Raper acquaintance recalls, “looking right at you and looking right through you.”
At parties, Ryan, who always wore a secondhand black leather jacket and covered his head with a white bandanna, would lurk close to RJ and seldom speak. Friends would ask who the quiet stranger was and at first RJ would joke that Ryan was his personal bodyguard.
But RJ and his friends are hard-working, street-smart kids. While few of them attended college, most have good jobs and are eager to make something of their lives. They’re also quick-witted, and Ryan just couldn’t keep up. Before long, it became clear that his dullness and confused state would prevent him from ever blending in socially. He was becoming an embarrassment.
Soon, RJ stopped telling people his old friend was his bodyguard. “Him? He’s 5150 as hell,” RJ would now say, using the police code for a mentally ill subject. “It got so we let him hang out with us because we felt sorry for him,” says Dauth, who now shares a condo with RJ.
Ryan was also wearing out his welcome at the Sansoni home. Tired of the young man not helping himself, Rich Sansoni gave him a two-week deadline to find a job or clear out. No one in the family realized just how mentally ill Ryan Raper actually was. The kid couldn’t fill out a basic application, let alone deal with job responsibilities.
On the eve of the deadline, Rich was worried about what would become of Ryan if he was put out on the street. RJ says his dad phoned Leroy Raper, who wanted nothing to do with his son and said that if Rich wanted to get rid of him, he should “give him $20 and drop him off somewhere.”
Rich Sansoni wasn’t inclined to talk to a reporter, but Leroy confirms that he told his old friend to kick Ryan out. “Rich called me and said, ‘Your son is here and he won’t leave my home,'” he recalls. “I said, ‘Give him a foot in the ass. That’s your home, man. Tell him to get out of there. ‘”
Adrift once again, Ryan took his garbage bag of clothes and headed to Kenny Dauth’s house, where Kenny was living with his folks. But Dauth was already well aware of Raper’s “out of it” condition, and was reluctant to let him cross the threshold. “I didn’t want him to come in because I was worried I’d never be able to get rid of him,” he recalls. “I let him put his things in the carport and then we went to go hang out. I wanted to get him away from the house.”
It was the evening of March 2. Ryan and Kenny walked to the house of another friend, Tim Carstensen, and from there to a convenience store, where they bought some beer. The three hung out in Union City’s Arroyo Park for a while, and then met up with Dauth’s nineteen-year-old sister, Kristie, and their friend, 21-year-old Jesus Estrada, a slightly built kid at five-eight and 130 pounds. All five piled into Kristie’s 1999 black Dodge Durango and headed to a secluded parking lot in an industrial section of town to party.
Kenny and Tim skateboarded in the late-winter night while the others sat in and around the Durango, listening to the radio and drinking. Ryan sat quietly in the backseat, but as the group was preparing to go, his mood changed abruptly. “Suddenly he yelled, ‘Turn off the radio, turn off the radio!'” Kenny recalls. “We thought he heard something, but whatever it was it must have been in his head.”
A moment later Jesus, who’d stepped out for a leak, wanted to get back in the car, but when Kristie asked Ryan to get out for a second so Jesus could climb into the rear seat behind him, Ryan was unresponsive. She had to ask three more times before Ryan finally got out. Then he lost it. Ryan, who weighed in around 180, threw the much-smaller Jesus to the ground and came down on top of him. Tim jumped out of the car and pulled Ryan off his friend, but not before Raper had unsheathed his knife and plunged the tip of the six-inch blade into Estrada’s neck, severing an artery and leaving a long gash. “It was entirely unprovoked. He didn’t even really know Jesus,” Kenny says. “He just all of a sudden snapped.”
Estrada was rushed into emergency surgery at Washington Hospital. According to hospital medical staff, he would have bled to death en route had he not kept pressure on the wound while his friends drove him to the ER. Shortly after the attack Ryan, who’d been left behind, wandered into a nearby fire station mumbling something about a knife fight. A Union City police officer arrived and arrested him for assault with a deadly weapon. Subsequently, a judge ordered that he be held at Santa Rita pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation.
Santa Rita Jail, named after the patron saint of lost, impossible, and forgotten causes, replaced the old county lockup in 1987. The modern incarnation, a $172 million “megajail,” is built into the rolling hills of northeastern Dublin on 113 acres of former farmland. Measuring a quarter-mile wide by half a mile long, the new Santa Rita is the fifth largest county jail in the nation. It holds more than 4,000 inmates, processes 55,000 to 60,000 prisoners a year, and currently hosts 174 murder suspects awaiting trial.
Its commanding officer, Captain Frederick Hagan, calls Santa Rita the “flagship” of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. Despite the two recent killings in the Behavioral Health Unit, he boasts that the facility has maintained a good reputation for safety and inmate care. Just inside the main entrance of its administrative offices hang numerous laudatory plaques from associations such as the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, the California Medical Association, and the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Sheriff Charles Plummer maintains an open-door visiting policy at the jail and Hagan, a second-generation county sheriff, is keen to show off the facility. He can barely conceal his pride in its design, operations, and staff. “We’re not perfect out here, but we do the best we can, and that’s pretty good compared to most jails,” he says, his words echoing as he walks briskly down one of the facility’s long and spotlessly clean hallways.
The jail’s planners, Hagan explains, took advantage of modern technology and economy of design to decrease costs and increase inmate and staff safety. For example, Santa Rita saves as much as $400,000 annually by generating 50,000 kilowatts of power through the nation’s largest system of solar panels. The jail also has a fleet of battery-operated, semi-intelligent metal carts. The box-shaped, unmanned vehicles trundle back and forth across the jail’s two massive quadrangles, transporting meals, supplies, and laundry to the eighteen housing units. The system is designed to cut down on staff and enhance safety by reducing the need to move prisoners around.
“This jail is designed to bring the services to the inmate as much as possible rather than bringing the inmate to the services,” Hagan says. “We don’t have a giant mess hall like San Quentin where you see four hundred felons eating together. The whole idea is to break down the jail into pods. The smaller the group, the easier it is to manage.”
Santa Rita’s Behavioral Health Unit gets high marks from many county health care workers, who describe it as well-organized, clean, and humane. The unit is broken down into six pods, each housing 28 inmates in double cells. Behavioral Health also has access to an area where violent inmates are housed in single cells. On a recent weekday afternoon, the unit bustles with activity. Four county mental-health clinicians sit across from inmates at a row of metal mess tables, filling out color-coded charts, dispensing meds, and checking blood pressures. Other prisoners watch TV, read newspapers, or make calls from a bank of pay phones.
This scene is closely watched by four deputies, who mill around the floor area, and by Housing Control, an oddly shaped room that sits in the middle of the unit like an errant spacecraft. Inside, two deputy technicians keep an eye on things through one-way glass and answer intercom calls from inmates confined to their cells. Housing Control is supposed to be staffed at all times. After all, it’s the brain of this unit, where technicians are first alerted to problems and can call in deputies from this unit, or any other part of the jail, to respond to an emergency.
Hagan says Behavioral Health regularly meets state and county inspection standards, and that the unit is one of his chief concerns. “As commanding officer, I see that mental patients are a major priority, along with woman who have prenatal and postpartum issues,” he says. “They are the most at risk in the population, and that’s why they are on the top of the list.”
Yet the captain claims that recent cutbacks in the county’s correctional budget, increases in crime rates, and a steadily growing responsibility for dealing with the mentally ill have put increasing pressure on the jail, its Behavioral Health Unit especially. That pressure grew significantly last July, he says, when budget cuts forced Sheriff Plummer to close down the Glenn E. Dyer adult detention facility in downtown Oakland. The five hundred or so inmates from Dyer were transferred to Santa Rita.
Yet none of this adequately explains why Raper and Freeman ended up in the same cell. Hagan isn’t forthcoming when it comes to Freeman’s killing. The sheriff’s department says it’s still investigating the case, but has thus far revealed little to indicate what went wrong on May 8, when the fateful assignment was made, and the next morning, when deputies failed to respond. “The two in my mind were pretty closely measured,” Hagan says when asked about the cell assignment. “You hear the other was a simple drunk, and that’s not true. He had three convictions for assault and battery.”
Again, the only such convictions in county court records are misdemeanors from when Freeman resisted being thrown in the drunk tank.
The problem is, even given Freeman’s old convictions, that there was quite clearly something wrong with that cell assignment. If the best predictor of the future is the past, jail authorities should have recognized Raper as the most dangerous type of inmate, deeply disturbed and given to explosive violence for no apparent reason.
The jail’s elaborate classification system, which considers a variety of factors including criminal history and mental stability, had in fact categorized Raper as violent. According to his Santa Rita classification sheet, he was given the highest security and assault ratings. Freeman, meanwhile, was not classified as violent and was given a low security risk and mid-level assault rating.
If the details of Raper’s alleged crime weren’t indication enough of his temperament, his stint at Santa Rita in the months prior to Freeman’s murder was marked by bizarre behavior and violence. On March 4, soon after his arrival at the jail, he attacked his cellmate, Michael Nason, 42.
The incident was eerily prophetic. At 3:45 a.m., close to the same time of day he’s accused of killing Freeman, Raper assaulted Nason while he slept — anyone’s worst nightmare. He punched Nason in the left eye and tried to stomp on his leg. “I was dead asleep and he came over to me and pulled me off my bunk and told me he wanted to break my leg,” Nason wrote in an incident statement. “I told him I didn’t want to fight. He told me he didn’t want to fight, he just wanted to break my leg.”
A month later, on April 2, Raper attacked another cellmate, 47-year-old Richard Alan Tillman. Raper punched him several times, leaving his face swollen and bruised. Both Nason and Tillman declined to file charges — prisoners, worried about retribution, often don’t in such cases. “I just want you to move that guy out,” was all Tillman had to say to the deputy who investigated the attack.
There were yet other indications of Raper’s instability. He’d been cited once for not taking his medication and also had taken to writing cryptic notes on his cell walls. They contained spelling errors, and the sentences were mostly incomplete, but the themes were unmistakably about death and killing. Later photos taken of the crime scene show the nonsensical scribblings amid splatters and smears of Freeman’s blood. “My cousins are great friends with the man think I want to kill.” And “St told me two killings.” And “The non that killed by out killed me in.”
With all these warning signs, jail authorities should have seen trouble coming like a runaway freight train on a clear day. According to the subsequent crime report compiled by the sheriff’s department, Raper remained in isolation until the morning of May 8, although the report is vague on when the inmate was first put there. But Raper’s psychopathic behavior and attacks on two prior cellmates didn’t stop them from assigning him to Pod B, Cell 9, with a tired 55-year-old alcoholic. At the time Freeman had served about half of his thirty-day sentence.
The first indication of trouble, according to the report, came around three o’clock that afternoon. Raper, who’d been yelling, called guards on the cell intercom. A deputy went to the cell and spoke with the prisoner, who seemed to calm down. But fellow inmate Taurus Lapin said in a statement that Raper wasn’t merely yelling: He was “screaming throughout the whole pod yesterday saying he was going to kill somebody,” Lapin said.
In the Behavioral Health Unit, a deputy is supposed to check the cells every half hour. There were no further disturbances until after the last safety check on Cell 9 at 2:21 a.m. Sometime after that, at least a dozen inmates in Pod B heard a terrible pounding and someone screaming for help, and another voice yelling, “You need to shut up!”
According to the sheriff’s report, three inmates — Jamar Smith, Rodrick Brown, and Charles Jackson — tried in vain to reach guards on the intercom. In Smith’s statement, he said he and cellmate Lapin, who were in the adjoining cell, listened to the beating continue for twenty minutes and again tried to summon the guards. Finally, a sheriff’s technician from Housing Control responded. “He said a deputy should be on his way shortly,” Lapin said. But no deputies arrived until well after Cell 9 was quiet.
In the sheriff’s report, there’s no mention of who was monitoring the intercom, nor, despite the jail’s modern technology, is there any official record or log of the calls. Oddly, the first mention of the intercom by a deputy described an unsettling call from Raper. Deputy David Vola said he had just relieved an unnamed technician in Housing Control when he noticed Cell 9 trying to contact the deputies’ post. Vola answered the call, he said, and a voice he recognized as Raper’s said, “It’s done.” Vola asked what the emergency was. “It’s done,” Raper repeated. The line went dead.
Deputy David Mckaig was the first to reach the cell. He saw Freeman face down on the floor covered in bedding. Blood and bits of brain matter were splattered on the cell walls. Raper was reclining on the upper bunk, his hands, legs, shirt, and face covered in blood.
According to the autopsy report, Freeman died of severe blunt trauma. His skull was cracked open, and Raper had apparently kicked or jumped on his upper torso with such force that all of his ribs were broken, his lungs collapsed, and his heart punctured.
A dazed Raper was transferred to an isolation cell where nurses examined him for complaints of pain in his right foot, a swollen knee, and pain in the knuckles of both hands. About fifty minutes after the killing, according to the sheriff’s report, Raper blurted out, “There’s blood on me.” A minute later, he said, “Fuck, man. You just can’t win, I tell you.” After that, he refused to say anything more about Kevin Freeman or the killing.
Dr. Jules Burstein, a member of the superior court’s panel of psychologists, was one of the experts who evaluated Raper. Burstein isn’t allowed to comment on the specifics of Raper’s condition, but does admit he was surprised by the cell assignment. Typically, he says, sheriffs’ deputies are good about isolating violent inmates in the Administrative Segregation Unit. “I want to believe that it was an inadvertent slip and not done out of a cavalier position,” he says. “But if sheriff’s deputies knew Ryan Lee Raper had been involved in unprovoked attacks and there was evidence of serious psychiatric impairment, it strains common sense to try and understand how they would have thought it appropriate to put Raper in the same cell with a homeless alcoholic.”
It would appear that employees of the sheriff’s department failed Kevin Freeman both when they assigned Raper to his cell and again when no one was available, or willing, to intervene in a brutal beating that continued for twenty minutes, perhaps longer.
Nearly three months after the murder, the criminal report is vague in both areas. There’s no mention of who decided to put Raper in with Freeman, and no mention of which deputy, if any, was on duty in Housing Control when inmates tried to call for help. Lieutenant Greg Ahern of the Sheriff’s Investigative Unit says those issues are still being investigated. “We will add that information to the report once it is formalized,” he says.
Captain Hagan, meanwhile, says no deputies have been disciplined in relation to the murder, and he expects none will be.
Yet there are many people in Berkeley, where Freeman lived on the streets for nearly 25 years, who are not satisfied with these explanations. At the request of numerous homeless advocates and those who knew Freeman, City Councilman Kriss Worthington has publicly called on the county to launch an independent investigation of the killing. To date, the Alameda Board of Supervisors hasn’t publicly discussed the matter or taken any action.
Freeman’s murder has also rekindled a call for an Alameda County detox center. Substance abusers from Alameda County are now transported to facilities in San Mateo and Marin counties — when space is available — to purge their bodies of alcohol and drugs. On May 23, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to ask county supervisors for a new detox center. “Even a small facility could, over the years, take hundreds of people out of incarceration and into recovery programs, which would save lives,” Worthington says. The county has not yet responded to the city’s plea, according to Cisco DeVries, chief of staff for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
Raper, who is still at Santa Rita, is scheduled to appear at a July 30 court hearing, where a judge will review two psychiatric reports and likely deem him unfit to stand trial, according to Raper’s court-appointed attorney David Byron. “I would be surprised if the doctors said anything other than he is not competent,” Byron says.
Whether Raper will ever be able to overcome his illness is a question only time can answer. However, it is certain that the course of his life was also drastically altered by a deputy sheriff’s decision to put him in a cell with a man he didn’t know but who somehow, in Raper’s distorted reality, presented a threat to him.
“I really loved him, I really loved my boy,” Leroy Raper says. “This has really hurt me bad, the way all this went. I don’t understand why they put him in the cell with that guy.”
Freeman’s brother Terry says his family is outraged about what happened, and is considering litigation against the sheriff’s department.
Early last June, when Terry and Brian made the trip out from Pennsylvania to learn more about their brother’s life and death, they spent some time with Berkeley cops who knew and liked Kevin. The cops recounted anecdotes about Freeman and told his brothers they were surprised and shocked when they heard about the killing, and wondered how it could have happened to a guy they knew to be cooperative and friendly.
Terry and Brian, who hadn’t seen their brother in years, were touched by the meeting. They left with a gift from the department: a CD-ROM of Kevin’s myriad booking photos taken over the last five years. They are the only recent photos the family has of him.
As for Freeman’s kindred spirits, a small group of homeless people who were gathered on the edge of Berkeley’s People’s Park on a recent afternoon wondered aloud whether a similar fate would ever have befallen some middle-aged swell from the East Bay hills who was serving time for a drunk-driving beef.
An older man with a grizzled beard and a beer can swaddled in a brown paper bag said he had little doubt. “We all know the answer to that question,” he said, and then raised his bag in the air.