After a heated public comment period Tuesday night before the Berkeley City Council — which led police officers to drag a man from the room and caused Mayor Tom Bates to shout for order after CopWatch supporters refused to cede the floor — participants in the fight for “justice for Kayla Moore” may be one step closer to discovering what happened the February night Moore died in police custody. (See Berkeleyside’s videos of the incidents below.)
Family members of the deceased Moore told the council they have received no information or communication from police or the city since the death, which took place Feb. 12. The Berkeley Police Department released a preliminary statement on the incident in February, but has otherwise declined to comment while the Alameda County coroner’s office completes its report on the death investigation.
Authorities said last week that the Berkeley Police Department now has the report from the coroner’s office in-hand. Officer Jennifer Coats, police spokeswoman, said Monday that the department will make copies available to the community when the document is ready.
Councilman Kriss Worthington ultimately asked City Manager Christine Daniel to provide a written report for officials and the public that would set out a time line for when the police report, coroner’s report, and other related documents might be made available.
“Instead of council members yelling at the public or the public yelling at the council, if we get some information maybe we can undertand what happened and have healing in the community,” said Worthington.
Daniel agreed to provide the time line and said, via email Wednesday, that she plans to consult with the Berkeley Police Department about the procedure to handle the request.
Moore’s father, Arthur, told the council he still isn’t sure why police responded to Moore’s home in the Gaia Building in February. (Police have said they were dispatched for a mental health evaluation.) Arthur Moore said witnesses in his son’s apartment told him his son was “being taken” and “being beaten,” that he was “put on a gurney, chained down and supposedly got to the hospital unconscious.”
Moore said he hasn’t heard from the city, and that he would have appreciated an acknowledgement of his family’s loss in recent months. Moore said he’s had trouble sleeping since his son’s death, due to the uncertainty surrounding what happened, and the lack of outreach from the city.
“It would have been courteous, and we didn’t get anything,” he told the council. “That hurts me a lot. I’ve been in this community a long time.”
Moore was the third speaker to address the issue of his son’s death; when a fourth person tried to make a comment about the matter, Mayor Tom Bates said that, due to council rules, the item would have to be moved to a later section of the agenda. Police quickly entered the room, as other members of the public yelled for the council to let the man speak. As outraged CopWatch supporters and other community members shouted at the council, police pulled the man from the room, and Bates called for a recess and left the council chambers. (See a video below, or on YouTube.)
The disagreement continued when Bates returned to the room, as CopWatch founder Andrea Prichett criticized the council for how it had handled the Moore situation, and what she described as the mayor’s support for police use of Tasers. Prichett continued to berate the mayor before stepping aside. Councilwoman Linda Maio said the council had to get back to its lengthy agenda, but told community members: “We see you. We hear you. Something’s going on. We will move forward with this.” Councilman Max Anderson drew shouts of support when he said the council should operate with more respect toward people fighting for social justice in the community, and Councilman Jesse Arreguín clarified that the item Moore supporters had been addressing — a proclamation for mental health month — would be considered later because more than four speakers had addressed it.
Community members then began shouting again, angry that the item was being moved, and that speakers would have to wait until an unknown later point in the evening to comment on it. Bates continued to try to regain order.
“Listen: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute,” he shouted, raising his arms above his head to get the unruly crowd’s attention. “We have people here — would you calm down? We have people here from community organizations, young people, old people, disabled people. You are preventing them from having an opportunity to make their case.” (See a video below, or on YouTube.)
Moore’s sister, Maria, said before the meeting that she’s troubled by what she considers a lack of mental health training for police in Berkeley, and a lack of information from the Berkeley Police Department about what happened to her brother.
“As family members, we want to know what happened to our loved one, and it’s been really hard not to know,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, about 40 CopWatch supporters held a rally on the steps in front of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to demand information about Kayla Moore’s death, and decry the Berkeley Police Department’s training manual and approach to mental health services. (See a Berkeleyside video from the rally on YouTube.)
Berkeley Police Capt. Andrew Greenwood said earlier this year that the agency has a “long history of working with respect and sensitivity to mental health issues in our community and among people with whom we come into contact, as well as “a positive reputation in community” for mental health-related interactions. Greenwood said the department has worked closely for more than 20 years with the city’s Mobile Crisis Team, which is part of Berkeley’s mental health division: “Through this close and frequent collaboration, our officers are well aware of the impact of mental health issues on the actions of people in our community.” The department launched a training program this year related to mental health crisis issues and plans to continue to develop that program and increase the number of officers trained in those skills throughout the year.
The Berkeley Police Department has declined to say whether an officer with specialized mental health training responded to the Gaia Building on the night of Moore’s death, citing the on-going investigation.
Police union: Should Berkeley have Tasers? [04.02.3013]
Anti-police demonstrators march in downtown Berkeley [03.13.13]
Berkeley Police release statement on in-custody death [02.28.13]
Name released after death in custody, cause unknown [02.22.13]
Man dies after struggle with Berkeley Police [02.13.13]
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