“Crimes against humanity” underway in police killings George Gold: Reform must proceed

Reform advocate George Gold

by George Gold
guest commentary

We live in unprecedented times. Pandemic. Impeachment. Insurrection. Police across the United States killing American citizens, repeatedly.

In Chico, the killings must be properly named: Desmond Phillips, Tyler Rushing, Stephen Vest. According to the United Nations, crimes against humanity are defined as “… certain acts that are purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic policy, directed against civilians, in times of war or peace.”

These days, with so many opportunities, people often say, I want justice for Desmond, or justice for Tyler, or justice for Stephen, but rather than some sort of homily of sorrow or regret, justice will be served when we have change. The Chico Police Department must change its tactics, its operating procedures, its mindset, its culture, its behavior. Stephen Vest was shot and killed by Chico police eight seconds after they arrived on the scene; he was shot 11 times. read more

Police expert: Excessive shots by Chico officer Vest, when down, shot twice in back, and in back of neck

photo from “The Daily Show”
Former police officer and use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton interviewed by television host Trevor Noah.

by Dave Waddell

An ex-cop who researches police use-of-force issues says an excessive number of shots were fired by Chico police officer Tyler Johnson in his October killing of Stephen Vest.

At a Jan. 14 media briefing, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey ruled that Johnson, who fired nine shots, and police Sgt. Nick Bauer, who shot twice, were justified in killing Vest and would face no criminal charges. Vest, 30, was in a meth-fueled mental crisis and holding a knife when shot.

Vest was hit by a total of eight police bullets, including six rounds from Johnson’s 9mm Glock. Johnson shot Vest twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, twice in the back, and once in the back of the neck. Video from Johnson’s body-worn camera indicates the neck shot came when Vest was on his knees, head bowed, falling forward. The barrage of bullets ended with two final rounds into Vest’s back as his midsection touched the asphalt. read more

Reformers want outside probe into police killing Stephen Vest slipped through the cracks, observers say

photo courtesy of Lisa Currier
Stephen Vest as a youngster in Paradise.

by Dave Waddell and Leslie Layton

Chico police reform advocates are questioning the independence of the investigation underway into the killing of Stephen Vest, who was shot Oct. 14 by an officer and his sergeant after Vest’s behavior frightened motorists and passersby.

Reform advocates want a state investigation into the killing outside the local Petco store. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey insists his system for investigating police shootings ensures impartiality and falls within the purview of his position. read more

Citizen group unveils Chico PD reform steps Calls for police culture in which ‘all Chicoans feel safe’

photo by Karen Laslo
CC4J Coordinator Emily Alma explains an eight-step police reform proposal.

by Dave Waddell

Akin to this year’s killing of George Floyd nationally, the gunning down of Desmond Phillips by Chico police in 2017 outraged and galvanized a community. That local movement came together last week to unveil what is called a plan for transforming policing in Chico.

The eight-step proposal for reform of the Chico Police Department includes calls for greater community oversight of the police and better use of de-escalation strategies in mental health and other crises, among other priorities. Emily Alma, coordinator of Concerned Citizens for Justice (CC4J), spoke Thursday (Sept. 24) of the group’s aims, standing in front of the sculpture of hands outside City Hall and while flanked by a couple dozen supporters. read more

Before Camp Fire, DA let PG&E avoid crime Did Ramsey deal save utility from probation violation?

Wikimedia photo

by Dave Waddell

Just one month before the horrendous 2018 Camp Fire, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey freelanced a money deal with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that allowed PG&E to escape a criminal charge for its negligence in starting the 2017 Honey Fire that threatened Paradise.

PG&E’s extreme desire to avoid a criminal charge in Butte County – and Ramsey’s willingness to play along – was motivated by the company’s desire to avoid violating terms of its federal probation for the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people. read more

Third anniversary of Rushing killing observed Family files quick appeal after lawsuit tossed in federal court

photo by Dave Waddell

by Dave Waddell

Scott Rushing, wearing his only son’s blue polo work shirt, had a question Thursday evening for two dozen people attending a sidewalk vigil on the third anniversary of Tyler Rushing’s death.

How many people have Chico police killed since Tyler died on a bloody bathroom floor inside a title company on July 23, 2017? The answer, as many in the group knew, is zero.

“Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. … I believe we’ve saved lives,” Rushing said of the activism that followed the killings of his son and Desmond Phillips, a young Black man in mental crisis who was gunned down by Chico police on March 17, 2017. read more