San Bernardino Police Officer Cleared in Fatal Shooting
Man's Death Followed High-Speed Car Chase
Joe Nelson, SB Sun Staff Writer
A San Bernardino police officer was justified in fatally shooting a Rialto man in an alley following a high-speed car chase, county prosecutors have determined.
Tyrone Brooks, 19, was shot multiple times in the head and chest while charging at San Bernardino police Officer Joshua Simpson about 2:10 a.m. Jan. 8 in an alley behind an apartment complex on East Jackson Street in Rialto, authorities said.
Simpson and other officers chased Brooks and two other men from San Bernardino into Rialto before the shooting.
Brooks was unarmed when he was slain by Simpson, a 28-year-old officer who has been on the force for three years and is also a member of the Police Department's Multiple Enforcement Team, Lt. Ernie Lemos said.
The shooting stirred anger in the Rialto neighborhood and cast a glaring spotlight on the half-mile stretch of East Jackson that consistently generated more than 400 calls a year to Rialto police.
A 15-page report released Thursday by the District Attorney's Office details the events leading to the shooting.
Despite numerous commands by Simpson to stop and to get on the ground, Brooks didn't comply, even after being fired upon about five times. He ran from behind a van and charged at Simpson, who fired his gun about four or five more times, killing Brooks, the report said.
"Mr. Brooks' resistance clearly escalated matters along the continuum of reasonable force from detention, to reckless flight, to endangering members of the community, to resistance to order to yield, to reaching into his waistband and charging the officer, thereby placing the officer in fear of his safety," Supervising Deputy District Attorney Ken Smith wrote in the report.
Simpson was assisting another officer on a call in the 3400 block of East Rainbow Lane in San Bernardino on Jan. 8 when he heard about four gunshots in the area of 20th Street and Reedy Avenue. A moment later he heard about six more gunshots. He got into his car, circled the block and came upon a car stopped in the middle of Reedy Avenue, according to the report.
Simpson chirped his siren signaling the car to pull over, but the driver sped off. A high-speed chase ensued on city streets, onto westbound Highway 30 and into Rialto at speeds reaching more than 100 mph. The chase ended on Shamrock Street, near East Jackson. The driver of the car, identified as Coleman Watson, and the front passenger, identified as Brooks, left the car, ran through a yard and jumped a fence into a backyard. Simpson gave chase, the report said.
A second passenger, Branden Nonnette, stayed in the car.
Two guns a .25-caliber Beretta with its hammer cocked and a black Glock were found in the yard near the car Watson was driving, authorities said. Coleman was subsequently detained by other responding officers. Brooks scaled a wall and landed in the alley of the apartment complex. Simpson noted a chrome metallic color in the area of Brooks' waistband and thought he might have a gun, the report said.
Simpson looked over the wall and noticed Brooks turning toward him with his hands down near his waist. He shouted repeatedly for Brooks to "stop" and that he was going to shoot if Brooks didn't comply.
The officer fired about five shots at Brooks and missed. Brooks ran behind a parked van, and Simpson heard three gunshots being fired south of him, according to the report.
Simpson stood in front of the van yelling for Brooks to lie on the ground. Instead, Brooks ran toward him, forcing Simpson to back away and fire about four more shots. Brooks was struck by gunfire and fell, according to the report.
An autopsy concluded that Brooks had been shot in the head and chest and died as a result.
Though Brooks was not in possession of a gun when he was shot, the circumstances surrounding the shooting justified Simpson's actions because it put the officer in a position where he feared for his life and the safety of citizens, Smith said.
Following the shooting, police found nine small knotted baggies of cocaine base in the car the three men were in, the report said.
Watson and Nonnette both told police that Brooks was in possession of a black handgun, the report said. The black Glock found in the yard near where the Rialto shooting occurred resembles the one described by Watson and Nonnette, Smith said, adding that both of Brooks' hands tested positive for gunshot residue, indicating he had recently fired a gun.
Neither the Beretta nor the Glock, Smith said, had fingerprints on them, Smith said.
Watson was subsequently charged with felony discharge of a firearm with gross negligence and felony evading an officer. He is now serving time in prison. Nonnette was not charged, Smith said.
The Rev. Sherman Mitchell, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Victorville chapter who tracks officer-involved shootings and police use-of-force issues around the county, has closely monitored developments in the Brooks case. He still believes the shooting wasn't justified.
"I think when the person is unarmed, there should be no deadly force used by the police officer. They have been trained to subdue and arrest people without killing them," Mitchell said.
Staff writer Robert Rogers contributed to this report.