City of Oakland agees to settle with Marine vet Scott Olsen for $4.5 million.

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

115px-CA_-_Oakland_PoliceThe city of Oakland has entered into an agreed order to pay former Marine and two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen $4.5 million. This is, as lawyers say, “to make him whole.” Unfortunately, Scott will never be whole again. The night of October 25, 2011 he was shot in the head by a police officer using a shotgun loaded with a “non-lethal” beanbag. Upon being hit, the former Marine went down like a sack of potatoes. His skull was fractured, he was bleeding heavily and his neck was broken.

When others rushed to his side to render first aid and assistance, Oakland Police officer Robert Roche heaved a flash-bang grenade into the group trying to render first aid and remove Scott from the scene.

Many videos were made from a number of angles, some of them going viral on the Internet within minutes of being uploaded. Initially, it was believed he was hit with a tear gas canister, but the green residue from the bean bag on his hat revealed the truth of how the injury occurred.

It is not clear if Roche was the same officer who fired the bean bag from a shotgun, but there are a number of photos and videos which show him holding a shotgun. I have looked at a number of photos and videos, and in a couple of them, it appears he is holding the shotgun in what is called a “high ready” position. Unfortunately, the pictures I have seen are grainy and poorly lighted, so details are hard to make out. Roche was identified by his rank (acting sergeant) and the numbers “35” visible on his helmet. Roche was the only acting sergeant in the vicinity, and his helmet number was 357. The Tango Team officers had three number identifiers and he was the only officer whose first two numbers were 35. Roche has since been fired, but is now trying to get his job back.

At the time he was shot in the head, Olsen was standing about fifteen feet from the police line. He was wearing his Marine fatigues and a cloth hat. The bean bag rounds leave a green residue, and there was green residue from the bean bag on Scott Olsen’s hat. For those not familiar with the bean bag round, the bean bags are not full of beans. They are actually a cloth pouch filled with lead shot and fired from a 12-gauge shotgun. They are both dense and heavy, and at close range, they are little more than a shotgun slug, which is anything but non-lethal.

The response of Oakland police to the Occupy Oakland on October 25, 2011 was investigated by former compliance director Tom Frazier and Independent Court Monitor Robert Warshaw. Thomas Frazier is a former Baltimore city police commissioner. He was employed by the San Jose Police Department for 27 years.

Frazier’s report was devastating. At one point, an officer from the Criminal Investigations Division, assigned to assist with the investigation, was accused of compromising the case. Frazier made it clear that he did not believe the incident reports of the Tango Team officers. None of the officers on the scene admitted seeing Olsen fall. They also denied seeing the flash-bang grenade thrown at the injured Olsen and the medics assisting him. Frazier wrote, “After review of hours of video footage involving the injured party (who appears to be approximately 15-25 feet in front of the police skirmish line when he was struck and fell to the ground), the fact that no law enforcement officer, supervisor, or commander observed the person falling down or prostrate in the street during the confrontation was unsettling and not believable.”

That’s the way you call someone a bald-faced liar without actually using the word “lie.”

It gets better. City Administrator Deanna Santana, who hired Frazier to do the investigation, later tried to get him to redact portions of his report, and requested he send the report to her in Microsoft Word format. She also wanted him to send it to her private Comcast email account rather than through public channels. Santana wanted to edit and sanitize the report before any of Mayor Quan’s aides—or the public–saw it.

About that settlement. The city of Oakland will pay $1.8 million, and the city’s insurance company will pay the $2.7 million difference. As of this date, Scott Olsen’s medical expenses are in the neighborhood of a quarter million dollars, and he is only 27 years old. He is looking at a lifetime of disability, lost opportunity, lost wages, and a lost life. I don’t know the extent of his injuries, and would have to review his medical and neuropsychological records to understand just what functions he has lost. However, it is likely he suffered extensive cognitive and motor function losses that will never be recovered.

And officer Robert Roche wants his job back. A footnote, this officer has killed three young men in the line of duty so far in his career. Justified? Who knows. The police reports say they were justified shootings, and maybe they were. But. given the findings of Thomas Frazier about the willingness of Oakland police officers to lie, mislead or omit critical information from their incident reports, it’s not likely we will ever know for sure.

I wish Scott Olsen well and hope his healing continues. Semper Fi.

Oakland City Attorney press release

East Bay Express: Damning Report of OPD

East Bay Express: Deanna Santana Tried to Alter Report

East Bay Express: Oakland to pay $4.5 million to Iraq War Vet Scott Olsen


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40 thoughts on “City of Oakland agees to settle with Marine vet Scott Olsen for $4.5 million.”

  1. Paul Schulte

    Charlton – I really do not think the 1% are afraid. In this particular case it was members of the 99% who attacked other members of the 99%. What you need to think about in your diary is why they would attack there own. The Russian Revolution was over the hump when the revolutionaries convinced the army not to fight against them and join them. Sadly, for the Occupy movement, they seemed to have petered out before they could get to that point.
    Your cultural amygdala is oozing through (Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala – 4).

    1. Dredd – I read your article, but I am not making the connection. Pretend it is a geometry proof and lay out the steps for me.

  2. Paul,
    I think they are afraid, but the tipping point has not yet been reached. The fact the 1% can continue to get the sheeple to vote against their own economic, health and well being interests is proof of that. I had thought of the objection you raised and will address it.

    1. Charlton,
      Most movements burn out early. There is not enough organization and money behind Occupy to sustain it. People vote against their own self interests all the time and for a variety of reasons. For example, my school district wants an override so they can float more bonds to build more buildings. It is in my self interest that the students be well-educated but it is also in my self interest not to spend my on my taxes. However I vote, I am voting against my self interest. :). Many years ago I was asked to vote for a freeway through the center of the city. It was in my self interest to have a freeway there. However, the plan required an elevated freeway which was not cost effective. Either way I was voting against my self interest. BTW, it was voted down. The city got all butt-hurt and did not offer a plan again for ten years. The next plan put the freeway underground with a park on top of it. That passed.

  3. The money is the only way to combat these overreaches of police authority. The police man/woman who fired the bean bag and threw the grenade is not fit for police duty. He or she acted either out of extreme intolerance or extreme lack of equilibrium. It is the responsibility of the government to hire, train, and monitor its police. The disrespectful closing of ranks after the incident is unfortunately impossible to get rid of. However, if when a police officer acts out of context and causes harm to the citizenry it is obligated to protect, that officer must be fired and perhaps even charged. The government that allowed the individual to be a police officer must be impacted to a degree that obligates it to correct itself. In this society that is money. The officials and supervisors who attempted to hide the facts and whitewash the incident which it of itself is disgusting and dishonest but also adds to the chances that this will continue to be the norm, must be fired, fined, and perhaps charged.

    Positions of authority in society must carry high levels of responsibility and allegiance to the protection of that society.

    The more money it costs, the faster the adjustments will be made. Hit them where it makes a point.

    1. The problem with money compensation is that the people who caused the problem are not paying it. They did fire the one cop but he wants his job back. If the law allowed the young man to sue for damages from the cop, this would make a big difference. However, the cops are immune from civil suits in these cases. The money is not coming out of their pocket, so why should they change. The citizens of Oakland are picking up the tab.

  4. This decision doesn’t come close to compensating this young Marine who was doing what most Marine veterans do: standing up to protest against the shredding of the Constitution by the current president and the criminal administration that preceded him.
    I’m a Vietnam combat veteran and I’m disgusted with where our country has been taken by venal, greedy, treasonous politicians and the military commanders who are more concerned with their own interests than those of the country.
    Semper fi.

  5. And to think Kansas wants to prosecute dismissed police complaints… I think this officer is too trigger happy….

  6. Perhaps I am wrong, I am recalling what I read back then, right after it happened. Yes it it’s the caduceus for Corpsman.

  7. annieofwi,

    The sailor standing next to Olson is definitely NOT wearing the rating insignia of a corpsman. The symbol for a corpsman is the caduceus.

    I’m pretty sure the rating symbol on that sailor’s uniform is that of a cook (CS -Culinary Specialist (previously a Mess Specialist)).

  8. Darren,

    Here’s a sad story from 2004:

    Boston police accept ‘full responsibility’ in death of Red Sox fan
    Woman killed by projectile fired to disperse crowds
    Friday, October 22, 2004

    (CNN) — The Boston Police Department “accepts full responsibility” for the death of a 21-year-old college student killed by a police projectile fired to disperse crowds celebrating the Boston Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees.

    Preliminary findings indicate that Victoria Snelgrove, a journalism student at Emerson College, was hit in the eye by a projectile that disperses pepper spray on impact, Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole said Thursday.

    Snelgrove died at 12:50 p.m. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, hours after the overnight melee.

    “The Boston Police Department is devastated by this tragedy. This terrible event should never have happened,” O’Toole told reporters. “The Boston Police Department accepts full responsibility for the death of Victoria Snelgrove.”

    Outside the family home in East Bridgewater, Rick Snelgrove clutched a photograph of his daughter and said, “Awful things happen to good people, and my daughter was an exceptional person.”

    “What happened to her should not happen to any American citizen,” he told reporters, fighting back tears. “She loved the Red Sox. She went in to celebrate with friends, she was a bystander. She was out of the way, but she still got shot.”

    Police have said some 60,000 to 80,000 people took to the streets in the area around Fenway Park late Wednesday. Although most were simply celebrating the 10-3 victory that thrust the Red Sox into the World Series for the first time since 1986, some in the crowd vandalized property, set fires and tried to overturn cars. At least eight people were arrested.

    However, video from the scene where Snelgrove was struck showed the crowd in a joyous mood, slapping high fives and chanting celebratory Red Sox slogans. There were no signs of near-riotous conditions in that immediate vicinity although the area was crowded, and dozens of people near her stopped celebrating when they realized the severity of her injury and they tried to get help.

  9. It is one thing to go after “criminals” ; it is quite another to go after your fellow citizens like an occupying army. I am sure that no broad generalization is ever correct but many “good” cops protect and defend the “bad” cops and make excuses for their excesses. Police officers who abuse citizens should be jailed; they are criminals no matter what uniform they wear or what job they hold.

    Who ever fired that round is being protected by his fellow officers. They are as guilty as he is.

    4.5 million is not near enough to teach the city and the police department a lesson. What a shame and a tragedy that this young man has to suffer from the wounds given to him by people who are supposed to protect us from the bad guys.

  10. Police Officers do suffer with PTSD, do commit suicide in higher numbers, do get jaded. Some of the things my brother dealt with in his work counseling cops on the MPD. However the cops who show so little humanity as to throw another gas canister into the group that was helping this Marine, truly shameful. No excuse. I read a study somewhere that showed how easy it was for normally tempered people to turn into cruel violen people when n a mob that is cruel and violent. Maybe police get caught up in this too. Perhaps they need to be given stronger direction to hold fire before deploying to a protest scene.

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