MARTINEZ (BCN) – More than a dozen activists and family members of those who have died in police custody demonstrated outside of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office in Martinez on Tuesday morning, calling on Sheriff David Livingston to resign.
The group takes issue with an email Livingston sent his department after the March 3 sentencing of sheriff's Deputy Andrew Hall, who received a six-year-prison sentence after being convicted of assault with a firearm in the 2018 killing of unarmed motorist Laudemer Arboleda in Danville.
It was the first conviction of a police officer for a gun-related crime in county history.
Livingston wrote Hall "served with honor and distinction," and "After an extensive internal investigation, he was found to be within departmental policy when he was forced to use deadly force to protect himself and others on that fateful day. I was proud to support him publicly and privately after the events of November 3, 2018, and I support him today."
"For our district attorney to charge a deputy sheriff, or any peace officer, for a crime based on a split-second tactical decision is abhorrent," Livingston wrote. "It is even more abhorrent for that same district attorney to later repost photos on her reelection campaign social media that show her smiling and proclaiming that she 'charged the officer.'"
Jennifer Leong, Arboleda's sister, said among the statements in Livingston's email with which her family took issue was Livingston saying Hall's conviction was a "sad day."
"It's not a sad day," Leong said. "It was a sad day when my brother was killed, Laudemer Arboleda. It was a sad day when Tyrell Wilson was killed. And it's a sad day that the other families that loved ones have been taken away have not had any justice in our system."
Hall also shot and killed Tyrell Wilson in March 2021, after being dispatched to the Sycamore Valley Road overcrossing of Interstate Highway 680 for reports of a man throwing rocks onto the freeway. The men approached one another in the intersection and Hall, after telling Wilson to drop a pocket knife he was holding, shot Wilson.
The county has paid a total of $9.4 million in settlement money to both families, even though the second killing is still being investigated.
"We believed in the system. And another person, Tyrell Wilson, was killed," Leong said. "So for Sheriff Livingston to say it was a sad day, to me, to my mother, to our family, that is disgusting. That is almost like a form of bullying. We are outraged. We want Sheriff Livingston to resign, we want him recalled. He cannot lead this community."
Hall shot and killed 33-year-old Arboleda at the end of a slow-speed police pursuit in Danville on Nov, 3, 2018. He shot him nine times as the Newark man pulled away at 6 mph.
Officers trailed Arboleda after someone called police to report Arboleda knocked on their door. Arboleda, whose family said he was hospitalized earlier that year for mental illness, pulled over multiple times, only to drive away from police. At one point, officers drew their guns without shooting as Arboleda drove away.
Hall was only involved at the very end, when he pulled in front of Arboleda at the corner of Front and Diablo streets. He exited his car and stood near the Honda's front right side. As Arboleda tried pulling away, Hall discharged his weapon 10 times, hitting Arboleda with nine bullets. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hall's lawyers said the officer was only trying to protect himself from an oncoming vehicle, though video shows that many of the shots came from the vehicle's passenger side as Arboleda tried driving away. The car ended up crossing Diablo Road and colliding with an oncoming car.
Livingston's email got the attention of the Prosecutors Alliance of California, which asked the county Board of Supervisors to audit the disciplinary practices in Livingston's department.
Livingston responded in an email, saying "The so-called 'Prosecutors Alliance' committee is made up of only four of the 58 DAs in the state. Contra Costa is not San Francisco or Los Angeles where two of their far-leftwing founding members serve. Instead of playing politics here, they should do their job and prosecute offenders and start caring about crime victims for once."
Demonstrators also said it's time for the Sheriff's Office investigation into Hall's shooting of Wilson to reach some conclusions.
Bella Quinto Collins is the sister of Angelo Quinto, who died in Antioch police custody in December 2020 after his family said an officer knelt on his neck for nearly five minutes. Quinto's death was later ruled an accident during a coroner's inquest.
Collins said it's time to separate the powers of county sheriff and county coroner, both of which are held by the same person in Contra Costa. Quinto's family is helping push a proposal in the state Assembly -- AB1608 -- to separate the posts. California is one of only three states to allow the jobs to be combined.
"(Livingston's email) is an example of the absolute necessity for a law like this, for the separation of these entities so that we can have an unbiased medical process along with the investigation of, especially law-enforcement-involved deaths," Collins said.
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