Fresno police release body-cam video of Dylan Noble shooting
A federal magistrate has ordered the city of Fresno to give lawyers for the family of Dylan Noble, who was shot and killed by police, an unredacted copy of a report about the incident prepared by the city's Office of Independent Review.
Noble's parents, Darren Noble and Veronica Nelson, are suing the city for wrongful death and violation of their son's civil rights.
Lawyers say they need an unredacted report to prepare for trial on June 25, 2019, three years to the day after Noble, 19 and unarmed, had a fatal encounter with police.
Friday morning at district court in Fresno, they told Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe that the copy of the city's report released to them in November was more redacted than was needed to protect personal information from unnecessary disclosure.
"It was phenomenal how much got redacted," said Stuart Chandler, Nelson's lawyer.
The city argued in court briefs that the report contains "analysis and conclusions" protected from disclosure so officials can take remedial actions and assess policies. There's a risk of a "chilling effect" on the city if the report is released unredacted, the city argued.
But McAuliffe noted she had already ruled on the issue in November when she ordered the release of police body camera footage, 911 call audio and other information to the lawyers.
"It's not deliberative process," she said of the report. "It may be used to evaluate policies but the Office of Independent Review report is not deliberative … The court finds it must be disclosed."
She compared the report by the Office of Independent Review to an internal affairs investigation by a police department, and said a very similar court case resulted in a ruling that an internal affairs document had to be released to lawyers.
McAuliffe said her ruling from the bench is tentative, but she expected her final ruling to be the same.
She also expressed annoyance that a full court hearing had to be held when an informal process that is less time-consuming could have been used.
"This had been going on long enough," she said. "I think we need to move it along." The lawsuit was filed in November 2016.
The city's attorney, Lynn Carpenter, an attorney at the law firm of Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Tester in Los Angeles, said in a telephonic appearance, "I respectfully would disagree with the court's ultimate decision" on the grounds that the Office of Independent Review report is "predecisional and deliberative."
She also said attorneys for the other side had "mischaracterized" the redactions in their arguments.
"Anything redacted has been redacted for legitimate reasons," she said.
The report is under a "protective order" in which only attorneys could see it. But Carpenter said she worried that if an unredacted copy became available it might be made public "by improper means."
Attorney Warren Paboojian, representing Noble's father, took offense at the suggestion there might be a leak. "For some lawyer from a law firm in L.A. to say I'd violate a court order … I resent that," he said.
McAuliffe said all lawyers in the case are officers of the court. "I don't anticipate any ill will from any counsel in this case," she said.
According to court documents, on June 25, 2016, Fresno police received a report of a suspect armed with a gun. Officers conducted a traffic stop on Noble and drew their guns.
"Noble refused to comply with over 30 at-gunpoint commands to show his hands or lay on the ground, at one point declaring that he hated his life," the document states.
Noble did not follow commands to face away from police, the document said. He walked toward officers, at times with his hands concealed, and despite being warned that officers would shoot "raised an object in his right hand that officers believed was a gun."
After officers fired two shots at Noble that knocked him to the ground, he reached for his waistband under his shirt and ignored commands not to do so. He was again warned officers would shoot. There was a second round of gunfire.
The object in his hands was a container of clay. An autopsy showed Noble had a blood alcohol level of .12 and "cocaine metabolites in his system," the court document said.