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. Michaelb,
    I can’t equate this with Kent State since the Ohio National Guardsmen were using live ammunition on students approximately a football field distance away.
    I want to echo what annie stated above. Any military personnel that completed a tour in Iraq and/or Afghanistan is to be commended and thanked, no matter what their particular duties were while there. My son was a Marine LT. when in Afghanistan and he was imbedded with the ANA, the Afghanistan National Army and just doing their patrols were scary enough, even if they didn’t all engage live fire exchanges.

  2. Perhaps this is the “Kent State” of our generation. None of the officers offered aid, knew who fired the rounds or admitted to firing the rounds. In later reports officers admitted to firing rubber bullets into the smoke randomly with no targets.

  3. Giovanna, I believe you are exactly correct, How to you deal with the worst type of people day in and day out then go to bed thinking humanity is good? I would think it is very hard.

  4. For what it’s worth, that sailor is violating the UCMJ, which prohibits political activity while in uniform.

    1. Bill H – My guess, and it is just a guess, is that the sailor is NOT currently serving.

  5. Keep in mind that what might look like a bad move by a “bad cop” may be something more than what we see or perceive. I just lost a police detective friend who worked in a detail going after the worst of the worst criminals.

    I can’t imagine living and doing that kind of work everyday and then going home and being a good husband and father. To me it’s as bad as being a soldier in a battle. How do you turn it off in your head–I say, you don’t.

  6. What annie and RWL said. It is the bad ones that make life more difficult for the good ones. Recall the account of Sheriff Cody Carpenter and Arkansas game warden Joel Campora posted here last June 1, 2013 by Mark Esposito.

    Sheriff Osborne Bell of Marshall County, MS was a friend of mine.

    I didn’t know Sheriff Lloyd Jones of Simpson County very well, but he seemed to have the respect of even the inmates at his jail. He was gunned down in his own driveway, along with a trustee who had come along to help him take care of some work for the county. Lloyd managed to crawl to the car and get on the radio to tell the dispatcher he had been shot and to send help. I listened to that radio traffic many times, and it did not get better with repetition. It still haunts me.

    I ended up having to do a mental evaluation on the killers of both officers. I think I did a good and fair job. The man who killed Osborne was a cold blooded psychopath and druggie. Sheriff Jone’s killer was a Vietnam veteran, who is currently serving two life sentences. The DA called me and told me Mrs. Jones had requested the state not ask for the death penalty for the Vietnam veteran who had killed her husband.

    In a strange twist of fate, it was a white man who killed Sheriff Bell and a black man who killed Sheriff Jones. The white guy had no excuse or reason, he is a psychopath. I am convinced the black man who killed Sheriff Jones and the trustee is another casualty of the Vietnam war. The wound that does not bleed but does not heal.

  7. RWL, there are good cops, no doubt about it. My brother was a Milwaukee cop for many years, retired a couple years ago. He counseled troubled cops, helped set up similar programs in several cities. I’m very proud of him.

  8. When I see or read about law enforcement officers behaving ‘badly’, I become very suspicious of all officers. However, I continue to be reminded of the men and women whom brave their souls to keep us all safe, like the late Suzanne Hopper:

  9. I have been giving serious thought to the extreme overreaction of law enforcement agencies regarding the Occupy movement. The reaction of the status quo element was shocking to say the least.Especially the violence of counter protest forces. In fact, shocking enough that I have given serious thought to what the driving force might be.

    My conclusion is the 1% are afraid. I will build my next diary around my understanding of that fear.

    1. 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.

  10. Hot town! Pigs in the street! But, the streets belong to the people! Dig it! (slogan from over 40 years ago, but still relevant) Over and out.

  11. I have been against the use of bean bag rounds since they were introduced and I have grave reservations on plastic bullets on crowds, as they can cause severe damage if the face is hit.

    I don’t know why the tear gas was deployed to begin with, but I don’t have all the information. But what is completely unacceptable was when this man went down and numerous others came to his rescue. The police then threw flash-bang(s) into their midst.

    The city deserved the settlement handed down to it. If only it would cure the man of his injuries.

  12. Paul, my daughter is a Corpsman, was deployed to Afghanistan, which is similar to Iraq in some ways that there were sometimes no rear and no front. My daughter was stationed at Camp Leatherneck, just up the road from Camp Bastion when it was attacked by the Taliban, so please don’t tell me how safe or unsafe this young man was in Iraq.

    1. annie, darren – I only said he might not have been in combat, which you had stated. You have inferred all the rest of your conclusions about thoughts. Both of you agree that he might not have been in combat. Let’s leave it there.

  13. I believe I saw that happen live on UStream that night, or I saw a video of it the same night, a bit later. That sailor next to him is a Corpsman, same as my daughter, he was pretty traumatized by it. The Occupy protests were rife with incidents of police abuse, from the clubbings to the pepper sraying of innocent people corralled in plastic netting, or sitting peacefully in a line. Truly awful for that young Marine to have survived battle to be injured in our own country for protesting.

    1. annie – just as a point of information just because you are a Iraqi vet does not mean you survived battle. I have a former student who did two tours and she specialized in washing humvees and tanks. Having said that I agree the police over reacted.

  14. The base manager for Ameriflight in OAK was an ex Oakland cop, and he was a pretty decent guy. I think that he got out of that place because of all the bad cops in the force. I know he took a hefty pay cut to take-up flying and he went into the borate bombers which is one of the highest risk kinds of flying. He later went into flying air cargo in a Lance which is an even bigger pay cut. He did not want to talk about his cop experiences, which is unusual for those who like their job.

    It is obvious the cops in OAK have not improved at all. If they keep this up, it won’t just be Black Panthers saying off the pigs. It will be white working class folks who will not only be saying it, but doing it. Just as the apartheid government made peaceful protest deadly and forced the ANC to take up arms,, situations like this will engender a similar shift if they do not get the cops accountable to the law like the rest of us. It seems like there is a Gresham’s law in law enforcement, the bad cops drive out the good, as inflated or bad money drives out the good. Getting these cops in jail is the only way to reverse this process.

  15. Paul,
    Most witnesses thought it was a tear gas canister, but the “tell” was the green dye from the bean bag on his hat where it hit him. That bean bag was moving with the speed of a shotgun round, so was not visible in the videos, unlike the hand-thrown canisters.

    It was a couple of investigative reporters who would not let go of the story who finally teased out the truth by going through piles of photos and video, finding the identifying helmet number and the sergeant’s stripes.

  16. It did appear that there was significant distance between the police and the protessters. Not sure how much. Anyone got any footage on the distance?

  17. It appears from the video that he was hit by a canister not a bean bag. This not to lessen the impact of his wounds rather to clarify the situation. Clearly the police were out of line unless there is a lot of film missing. I saw what appeared to be news photographers taking pictures before the gas was fired. Were their photos in evidence? And the flash bang was just over the line. Not sure who got the video of the thrower, but you can see him duck back behind the crowd of cops before he lobs it. Firing is not enough for the guy. Attempted murder and assault charges should be added.

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