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Regional Interests

DA Says Daly City Police Killing of Roger Allen Was Lawful

A Daly City police officer’s fatal shooting of a 44-year-old man in April was legally justified, according to an investigation by the San Mateo County district attorney made public on August 20.

On April 7 detective Cameron Newton fired twice into the truck of Roger Allen. One shot hit Allen in the chest.

The killing of Allen, a Black man, drew attention to the Daly City Police Department’s long-stalled body camera program. Allen’s family and advocates questioned how what began with a flat tire ended in a deadly shooting.

Officers “reasonably believed they were in a struggle for their lives over control of a gun that, had it been real, could have been used to shoot both of them,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe wrote in a letter accompanying his office’s investigation.

In an interview Friday evening about her brother, Talika Fletcher said she was “numb” in response to the announcement. Fletcher plans to sue Daly City, but doesn’t yet have a lawyer. “I will get justice,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said Black people like her brother are often fearful when stopped by police. “Are we going to get shot or go to jail when we get pulled over?” she asked. “These are the things we think about.”

A 2020 Bay Area News Group study of 110 law enforcement-involved deaths since 2015 found an outsized percentage of Black people had been killed — even when they were unarmed.

In the absence of body camera video, the DA’s investigation reconstructed the incident from interviews and physical evidence. According to the DA’s report, Officer Nicholas McCarthy said he saw a truck pulled over with a flat tire on the 700 block of Niantic Avenue, just east of Highway 280 in Daly City. It was a few minutes before 2 p.m. He decided to check on the driver, and pulled behind the truck without his lights or sirens on.

McCarthy told investigators he saw Allen, who was in the truck’s passenger seat, trying to hide a pipe. He asked the driver, James Colangelo, to step out of the vehicle. Officer Rosa Brenes arrived, followed closely by Lt. Michael Brennan and detective Cameron Newton, who approached the passenger side of the truck.

McCarthy said he then noticed that Allen was holding what looked like a semiautomatic handgun in his lap.

The officer yelled “Gun, gun, gun!” and drew his own firearm, according to the DA’s report, as Allen raised the weapon and began to yell, pointing it at McCarthy’s face. As he prepared to fire, the officer said he felt a “pinch” on his forehead. He said he feared shooting could hit the other officers and decided to retreat.

“Had Mr. Allen’s gun been an actual firearm, officer McCarthy would have been shot in the head and likely suffered a fatal wound instead of only suffering a graze wound from a BB,” Wagstaffe wrote.

Brennan had opened the passenger side door and was struggling with Allen, officers and witnesses told DA’s investigators. Detective Cameron Newton reached around Brennan and fired two shots at Allen, hitting him once fatally in the chest.

“There was a feeling of being terrified that the subject was going to kill the Lieutenant right in front of me, kill me, whoever else was in the vehicle,” Newton told investigators.

Colangelo and another witness in the truck’s back seat told investigators Allen pointed what looked like a gun at police officers, according to the DA’s report.

Colangelo said the primary officer jumped into the driver’s side of the car to try to wrestle for the gun, and the struggle lasted for 30 to 40 seconds before he heard the first and then second gunshot.

An additional witness was in the back seat and said the struggle for the gun lasted “only seconds” before shots were fired, according to the DA’s report.

Daly City’s long-stalled plan to implement body cameras was restarted after Allen’s death. The police department has purchased 100 body cameras and 32 in-car cameras and is training officers to use them, according to a statement from the city.

Over the summer, Daly City hired former Oakland police chief Howard Jordan’s consulting firm to investigate the shooting to see whether the officers violated the department’s use-of-force policies.

District Attorney Wagstaffe said he believed his office examined all evidence in the case, but also said he would be open to new evidence if the independent investigation discovered something new.

Copyright 2021 KQED