Oakland shields a killer cop

October 10, 2012

Jeff Harland and Alessandro Tinonga report on the latest protest to demand answers from Oakland officials about the police killing Alan Blueford.

"OFFICER MASSO came up to Alan while he was flat on his back, took his gun, aimed it at him and fired three shots into Alan's body at a time when Alan posed absolutely no threat to anyone."

Those were the words of Dan Siegel, an attorney representing the family of Alan Blueford, an African American teenager killed by police in May, as Siegel spoke at a press conference at City Hall.

After months of pressure from Alan's family members and supporters, Oakland City Council President Larry Reid relinquished a redacted police report to Alan's father during an October 2 meeting.

But only days later, as this article was being written, Oakland Senior Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Mifsud announced that the cop who killed Alan, Miguel Masso, would be cleared and no charges would be filed. "Officer Masso actually and reasonably believed that his life was in danger after he had made eye contact with Mr. Blueford and that if he did not shoot, he would be killed," Mifsud wrote, adding that the officer went into "survival mode."

Attorneys Walter Riley (left) and Dan Siegel join activists at a press conference demanding justice for Alan Blueford
Attorneys Walter Riley (left) and Dan Siegel join activists at a press conference demanding justice for Alan Blueford (IndyBay)

That's no answer at all for Alan Blueford's family and friends, who are left to wonder why his life is being judged unworthy of protection from an out-of-control cop. They are vowing to continue their fight for justice.

ON OCTOBER 2, for the second time in two weeks, the Blueford family, along with supporters, demanded answers about the murder of their son from Oakland City Council members. Again, demonstrators had to shut down the council's planned agenda and directly challenge council members' requests for yet more patience and time.

Over 50 people, comprising the Blueford family, activists and members of Oakland's interfaith community, marched from the district attorney's office to City Hall. Outside of the D.A.'s office, family members spoke briefly, demanding the original police report and a criminal investigation of Masso. At the steps of City Hall, the family was met by over 100 supporters wearing "Justice 4 Alan" T-shirts, and carrying signs and banners.

For reasons never disclosed by council members and in violation of open meeting laws, the chamber's upstairs balcony was closed to the public. In addition, claiming "fire safety precautions," standing was prohibited during the session--reducing the number of supporters allowed inside the chamber.

Many people who had signed up to speak during the open forum were not allowed inside, even though their names had been called. Supporters inside the chamber called for those outside to be let in, unnerving the council members, who then sent aides outside to placate the protesters, promising that those on the list would be heard.

Unfortunately for council members, these tactics to limit the public's participation and support for the Blueford's case failed, and protesters grew increasingly louder and more disruptive. Chants of "Let us in our City Hall," "No justice, no peace" and "Justice for Alan Blueford" filled City Hall.

During the open forum, Alan's cousin Tiffany Mantague questioned the city's decision to hire Masso, who had previously resigned from the New York Police Department after claims were filed against him for macing and assaulting a handcuffed suspect in a holding cell.

"Who did his background check? Who let it slip through the cracks that he already had a red flag, and he shouldn't have been serving our community?" she said.

Speaking against recently leaked reports that police had found Alan's partial prints on a recovered hand gun, Tiffany demanded answers from City Administrator Deanna Santana, "Can you tell me who's responsible for a leak that Alan's fingerprints were on the gun?"

Alan's cousin Tanisha Blye, though interrupted several times by Council President Larry Reid, demanded an end to stop-and-frisk racial profiling:

This stop lacked reasonable suspicion to approach the three teenagers. They were racially profiled--it was because they were three African American males. When citizens are approached by officers, with their lights off and guns drawn, conduct of that sort needs probable cause. So, Councilman Larry Reid, what have you done to help this family discover if Alan Blueford was racially profiled immediately preceding his murder and what have you done to stop such practices in Oakland?

These questions would remain unanswered, as city officials chastised the family and their supporters for being loud and disruptive.

Council member Desley Brooks warned the family that their supporters gathered in the chamber had misguided them. "Don't just come every night and yell, because that doesn't change anything," Brooks said. "Come and work with us to change the policies and procedures...If you allow these people who come here not because of your son, but to continue to just want to shut down a meeting, then you accomplish nothing."

Council members' attempts to move the agenda forward and ignore the family where met with jeers and loud chanting from supporters. As the family's final speaker was midway through his speech, Council President Larry Reid pulled from his desk a redacted police report, handing it to the Bluefords' representatives.

After finally receiving the report, the Blueford family, the Justice for Alan Blueford coalition and their supporters left the city chambers together. As the family and protestors left City Hall, they chanted, "You redact, we'll be back!"

THE POLICE report, which has been posted online, completely demolishes the false story that has been perpetuated by the Oakland police, City Council and the media: that Alan was shot during a gun battle.

Instead, what took place was the unjustified murder of a young Black man.

According to the report, on May 5, Masso rolled up on Alan and his friends, who were waiting for a ride. When Alan took off running, Masso pursued him, and the chase led to the 9200 block in East Oakland. Alan then tripped on a curb, banged onto a fence and fell on his back. At that point, several witnesses say Officer Masso came up and shot Alan three times while he was lying on his back.

Some witnesses said that after being shot, Alan cried out, "Why did you shoot? I didn't do anything."

While Alan lay on his back bleeding, Masso put out a call for assistance on the police radio and stated that a gun battle had taken place. When other officers arrived on the scene, Masso was given medical attention and sent to the hospital. Alan was left on the ground, and most likely died on the scene, as Highland Hospital never reported his arrival, contrary to the claims of the Oakland police.

In the week following the last City Council protest, a "leak" to the press claimed that Alan's fingerprints were found on a gun police say they found 20 feet away from where he was killed.

However, the timing and details of the finding raises many questions. "According to the police report, Alan's left thumbprint was found on an ammunition clip," said Dan Siegel. "The pictures from the report show the clip was not in the gun, we don't know who put it there, we don't know a lot about it."

He added, "I want to know about that gun--what it is, where did it come from. That part was conveniently blacked out in the police report."

Attorney Walter Riley, who also represents the Blueford family, said: "There is no clear forensic report that clearly shows that those were Alan's fingerprints. We have to analyze it. There are other fingerprints on the gun...Alan is eliminated from all other prints on that weapon."

And none of the evidence overrides the fact that witnesses saw Alan shot by Officer Masso while he was on the ground, with no weapon in his hand. The coroner's report showed that Alan did not have gunpowder on his hands, proving that he did not engage in a gun battle, as Masso had reported. The only danger to Masso was his own weapon--it has been revealed that he shot himself.

"The police offer shot without cause while [Alan] was on the ground," said Walter Riley. "The law is clear. That is murder."

The release of the police report to the Blueford family, though redacted, is a victory for the movement. Many questions about the night of Alan's death remain unanswered, however.

"They didn't want to hand over that report willingly," Alan's mother, Jeralynn Blueford, said. "They were wanting us out of there. When Larry Reid finally handed over the report, [Police Chief] Howard Jordan was sending out tweets on his blackberry announcing they released the report--to pretend they did us a favor."

For five months, the city of Oakland has stalled in handing over reports and evidence to the Blueford family when they demanded it. Members of the City Council attempted to placate the family and urge them to be patient--before trying to physically shut them and their supporters out of the City Council.

The Blueford family has a long way to go to get justice for their son, especially with the announcement that Masso will not face any criminal charges. However, support for the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition continues to grow--and activists are vowing to keep the pressure on to make sure that the killers in blue are forced to pay for their crimes.

Further Reading

From the archives