The results are not in question, it’s a lay-up for San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault. He knows what’s expected of him and he WILL deliver for District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe and Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, just as he has done in the past. He will shift the blame for 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi’s death to Chinedu himself, a scene played out, time after time, by Foucrault, Wagstaffe, and Bolanos.
He will use the term excited delirium coupled with heart attack, to explain Chinedu’s death, versus excessive and unnecessary force employed by San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies – Chinedu, an African American male who had been jaywalking, in the city of Millbrae, was repeatedly tased, pepper-sprayed, and manhandled by at least five deputies -jaywalking is an infraction normally worthy of only a ticket.
So common is the scenario, in San Mateo County, and the roles played out by Sheriff Bolanos, Coroner Foucrault, and District Attorney Wagstaffe that one can comfortably predict, with confidence, what the outcome will be.
It’s analogous to the definition of insanity, in this case, the sheriff’s office being presented with a mentally challenged person and unwaveringly employing force resulting in death. Should Sheriff Bolanos really have anticipated a different result, given his office’s’ lack of training, vision, and direction, on how to handle such incidents? The answer is no.
Have San Mateo County authorities learned nothing, over the years, as to how to address mentally challenged persons? Unfortunately, the answer is, again, no, the result is predictable with ominous results -they choose to immediately place themselves in harms way, confront the individual without a plan, and employ force likely to result in serious injury or death.
In the instant case, five deputies earning a minimum of $100,000 each a year plus a like amount in benefits, immediately confront and employ force against the jaywalker, meaning a million dollars a year was paid for such a bad decision. Not to mention the line supervisor, manger, executive staff, and sheriff who tolerate such results. Add to that, the county department heads (District Attorney Wagstaffe & Coroner Foucrault) who rubber stamp / rationalize them, giving them a pass and enabling future similar behavior.*
What’s worse is that those persons given the people’s’ trust, in this case Sheriff Bolanos, Coroner Foucrault, and District Attorney Wagstaffe, never address the underlying issues, poor judgement on the officers part, lack of training, and excessive & unnecessary force, relative to the situation.
This scenario was wholly avoidable and will undoubtedly be repeated, with sign-offs by the same cast of characters, Bolanos, Wagstaffe, & Foucrault. In short, there are no adults in the house, in San Mateo County, ones willing to be critical of officers and worthy of the public’s trust.
One only has to look at the history of like events, in the County, involving the very same individuals, Bolanos, Foucrault, and Wagstaffe, to see a deadly pattern:
2003-Ricky Escobedo causes a ruckus from the balcony of his ex-girlfriend’s Redwood City apartment. She calls the Redwood City Police and six officers fight with Escobedo, causing two broken bones around his throat, eight broken ribs, and internal bleeding.He dies and Coroner Foucrault reports it wasfrom cardiopulmonary arrest caused by excited delirium from a bruising struggle with officers. Carlos Bolanos was the Redwood City Police Chief, at the time, and Steve Wagstaffe the District Attorney Office’s Chief Deputy. Wagstaffe along with his boss, DA Jim Fox, determine officers did nothing wrong. Similarly, Bolanos said an internal investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of police. R.I.P. person of color Ricky Escobedo.
2005–Fernando Cazarescauses a disturbance wherein his sister summons deputies, telling a dispatcher he was a crazy person on drugs. Deputies Chiltonand Peardonare dispatched to the 300 block of Second Avenue, in unincorporated Redwood City. A struggle ensues, involving bouts of pepper spray and hand-to-hand combat. Cazares strikes Chilton and, at one point, both officers strike him with their flashlights. Three other officers, deputies Mark Cody, Lisandro Lopez and Greg Pitlock, respond and together, the group continues fighting until Cazares is pushed to a car hood and cuffed. Cazares goes limp and dies. Coroner Foucrault reports the cause of Cazares’ death is cardiopulmonary arrest due to excited delirium, exaggerated by the struggle, pepper-spray inhalation and forcible restraints placed in a prone position. DA Jim Fox and Chief Deputy Steve Wagstaffe absolve deputies of any wrongdoing. R.I.P. person of color Fernando Cazares.
2014-Yanira Serrano-Garcia, 18 of Half Moon Bay, is shot and killed by sheriff’s deputy Menh Trieu, with whom she allegedly got “in a confrontation”. The family told dispatchers the woman was mentally ill, was located down the block with a knife, that she refused to put the weapon down when asked, and requested an ambulance to transport her to a hospital for help. Deputy Trieu drives right up to Serrano-Garcia, gets out of his patrol, and, fearing for his life, shoots her to death within 20 seconds of being on the scene. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe absolves Deputy Menh Trieu of any criminal wrongdoing. R.I.P. person of color Yanira Serrano-Garcia.
As to Chinedu himself, well he is not a person who matters. District Attorney Wagstaffe has previously been criticized by the California State Appellate Court for excluding African Americans from being jurors in a capital case; Coroner Foucrault has been investigated and criticized for sexual misconduct, while in the County’s employ; and Sheriff Bolanos had been detained and questioned by the FBI, in Las Vegas, in a Human Trafficking Investigation involving indentured Asian sex slaves, at least one of whom was a minor. I mention this only to provide the reader with some context and sense of these individuals respective character and integrity.
Welcome to the San Mateo County Two-Step!
By Michael G. Stogner