Police Abuse

Witness Video Appears to Contradict Official Version of Fatal Police Shooting of Unarmed California Man

Cops say John Berry tried to hit them with his car before they shot and killed him but family and witnesses disagree.

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Early last month, deputies from the Los Angeles County shot and killed 31-year-old John Berry, who was drving his car. The authorities said Berry rammed a patrol car and then pinned a cop to another vehicle, and that deputies shot at Berry because they feared for that cop's life. 

The Los Angeles Times reports on what led to the incident:

Berry was not himself and appeared to be off his medication July 4 when he showed up at home upset that he had lost his job. He called the police to complain that he wasn't being allowed access to the belongings in his room. When a deputy arrived, Berry gathered some possessions and left the house he shared with his mother, sister, brother and a niece. 

Two days later, Berry reappeared at the house, parking his car on the front lawn. His older brother went out to talk to him. 

"He was sitting in the driver's seat of his BMW," Chris Berry, 37, recalled. "I could tell he hadn't slept in a while." 

Chris Berry, a federal police officer who works at a facility with two psychiatric hospitals, said he called the Lakewood sheriff's station and asked that a mental evaluation team be dispatched. He was informed that deputies would be sent instead. 

The deputies who arrived were immediately aggressive and escalated the situation, Chris Berry said. He said he watched as they unleashed pepper spray, shot his brother with a Taser at least four times and struck him with batons. His brother, he recalled, looked stunned and cried, "What did I do wrong?" 

"They said he accelerated and crashed into the police car. That did not happen — I was there for the whole thing," Chris Berry said. "But they have to say that because it justifies their aggressive actions.… I believe in my heart and I know Johnny wasn't trying to hurt them." 

Chris Berry said that as a law enforcement officer, he is pained to be mixed up in what feels like a family fight. "I called one brother to help another brother and…" He stopped, unable to finish the sentence. 

A spokesperson for the sheriff's department insisted the witness video began after Berry rammed into a patrol car. She says the video is in their possession and part of the department's investigation into the incident.The Berry family's attorney, who released the video, denies Berry hit the patrol car, saying the shooting started when a deputy fell down near the cars. 

Watch the video below: 

NEXT: Watch Out for Drones with Pepper Spray in North Dakota

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  1. He was informed that deputies would be sent instead.

    And thus fates were sealed.

    1. “Never mind. He’s much better. I think I overreacted. Sorry to waste your time.”

    2. Never point a loaded cop at anything you don’t want destroyed. Or a sober one, for that matter.

  2. Hmm. Cops on both sides… Who should we believe?

  3. By the end I was wishing that the cops had shot whoever was holding that phone or camera.

    1. Indeed. I was agreeing with her when she started yelling “Stop beating him,” because at that point it seemed excessive, but then she kept yelling it even though the beating seemed to have stopped.

  4. “They said he accelerated and crashed into the police car. That did not happen ? I was there for the whole thing,”

    The cops handled this wrong but….didn’t he accelerate and hit a police car behind him? Did I see or read something wrong?

    1. Looks to me like that cop car was already in contact with is car, and he’s just pushing against it.

      If so, then I would say that the cop car hit his car before the video starts.

      1. Before he gets shot he puts the car in reverse and hits the car behind him. This is after the pushing

        1. OK, I see that now, kind of.

          Yeah, the guy running the cameraphone does a world-class job of fucking it up.

          1. Kind of? You can see if move at least 10 feet from the car it was “pushing” on

            1. The “kind of” has more to do with the craptacular video.

              1. This video does NOTHING to help either side’s case. I wouldn’t have complained if the police had come over to beat up the idiot filming.

                Having said that, the fact that there 5-6 deputies all who apparently were in a hurry to extend their batons (no, nothing phallic about that!) is a problem. What the fuck ever happened to “Sir let’s talk about what is going on here.” Cops are obviously not taught to de-escalate situations anymore. Every call is simply about entering a combat zone.

                1. Agreed….. this is all down to training. They did exactly as they were trained to do. They showed up in force, established authority over the scene and ordered the victim to exit the vehicle. They then immediately began the escalation of force, just as they are trained to do.

                  Being mentally ill, the victim chose not to comply – like mentally ill people tend to do when confronted with violence. Then the victim tried to leave by putting his car in drive. The deputies followed their training and escalated the violence further. In response to this, the victim put his car in reverse and tried to drive away from the violence backwards.

                  The police responded to this according to their training. A vehicle is a deadly weapon, and as he was knocking deputies over as he backed into another patrol car, the use of deadly force was unleashed. The deputies proceeded to fire until the victim stopped moving, per their training.

                  So from their point of view, they did nothing wrong. They followed their training.

                  Now from a rational, third party perspective there were dozens of opportunities to avoid killing the guy. If at any point the deputies had followed a different path, they wouldn’t have reached the final point of opening fire. But that is not relevant to the police on the front lines. They followed their training.

                  This is a leadership problem Our police leadership has focused all training on subduing violent felons and this is the result.

  5. The Berry family’s attorney, who released the video, denies Berry hit the patrol car

    Umm, you can see him hit the patrol car starting at about 1:48….

    1. Yeah, the guy was dangerous and was obviously not getting out of that car but

      Don’t things like tear gas work? I don’t get the incessant beating and pleading.

    2. Or how about reach in, turn off the car and take the keys out and wait. If the guy won’t let you do that, then maybe there is a reason to be more forceful.

      1. I agree the police overdid it to some degree at the beginning, but the guy is still eligible for a Darwin Award: once you are surrounded by cops who are hitting you and trying to get you out of the car, driving the car into other cars is likely to get you shot.

        1. 3 generations of Papayas is enough.

        2. Yeah, yeah, we got it. If they hadn’t of done what I told them not to do, then they’d still be alive.

          It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
          ???For fear they should succumb and go astray;
          So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
          ???You will find it better policy to say: —

          “We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
          ???No matter how trifling the cost;
          For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
          ???And the nation that plays it is lost!”

          1. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

            1. I see that you know this game.

        3. “I agree the police overdid it to some degree”

          Only because the dude wasn’t black, right?

          1. I have no idea what color the guy was. Doesn’t matter. The color of the cops doesn’t matter, either.

        4. Yeah, but if you’re of altered mental status, you might not be having clear, logical thoughts like that, and might rather instead be having significantly more basic “fight or flight” reactions instead. Hell, even if you don’t have altered mental status, you might want to get away from the crazy motherfuckers smacking you with batons and tasering you.

          1. True, but a crazy person in a car, trying to drive away and hitting at least one cop car while surrounded by cops, is obviously a danger. I’m not saying he deserved to die, and I continue to believe that the “everybody empty their magazines” shooting style is usually too much. Still, the basic situation of “doing stupid and dangerous things near cops with guns who are giving you orders” is one that often ends in tragedy. Even crazy people can win Darwin Awards.

            1. I’m not saying he deserved to die, and I continue to believe that the “everybody empty their magazines” shooting style is usually too much.

              Oh, Papaya, you’re such the enlightened soul, now. You’ve moved onto “they shouldn’t kill him so hard.” So proud of you.

              And yes, you are exactly saying that he deserved to die.

              1. I get it, nuance isn’t your thing.

                Driving a car at people counts as assault with a deadly weapon, so based on what I could see in the video, the decision to shoot wasn’t entirely uncalled for.

                Concern about police abuse is perfectly valid, but a lot of these “police abuse” incidents start with people doing really stupid and violent things, and then there’s a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about the split second decisions that the cops made in response. How should the police have responded once the car started crashing into cars and knocking people over? Get out of the way and let him drive away? Someone above had the idea of using tear gas earlier, which sounds like it would have been a good idea, but at that point it was too late.

                I am in agreement that this was a screw-up, and the guy probably didn’t need to die, but I think it’s crucial to try to see the whole picture, and from all points of view. People have some responsibility for their own actions, and if they do stupid and violent things around nervous cops, they are in great danger of being shot. And when they are shot, I am reluctant to just cram it into the box labeled “OMG Police Abuse.”

  6. One of those deputies looks like quite the health nut.

    1. I’m sure IA, with the full backing of their union, has an investigation open on him for being a fat fuck.

  7. Sigh, here we go again. NEVER call the cops in a situation like this.

    1. Never call the cops on somebody unless you don’t care if he gets killed.

  8. One thing that bothers me is the way Cop Blackjack starts beating the shit of him at the beginning of the video. Not sure how that’s justifiable, seeing as the corpse-to-be doesn’t appear to be actively resisting anything (hard to tell, of course, given the angle).

    1. That seemed excessive to me, too. Maybe a single wack to emphasize the point would have been called for, but not more than that.

      1. They opened the door and baton guy starts taking full force swings within 3 seconds. Mentally ill or not, getting out of the car after that would give anyone pause.

        Now as to why he would do that…. by the positioning of the cruiser in the street directly in front of the car, I would guess that just before the video begins the driver bumped into the cruiser before stopping. Later we see that the cars are in contact when he begins moving again. I say “bumped” because there is no obvious damage to the front of the vehicle. “Rammed” would imply much more force.

        My speculation is that Baton Guy is pissed that the driver didn’t immediately stop and had to be pinned in by a patrol car. So Baton Guy is meting out punishment for this behavior.

        My judgement – based on quite a few speculative points but also the unequivocal observation that he violently assaulted the driver at his first opportunity after the door was opened – my judgement is that Baton Guy bears the brunt of the responsibility for the death of this guy. Once Baton Guy started wailing on him, there’s no way he was going to quietly exit the vehicle…. and the rest of the officers followed along with the precedent for the level of violence.

        I have no doubt this will go down as a good shoot and maybe even get commendations all around. But with proper training, discipline and chain of command this never would have happened.

        There are 5 guys freelancing around the car, instead of one voice directing them.

        1. I agree that Baton Guy overreacted and perhaps set up the situation to some degree.

  9. “But they have to say that because it justifies their aggressive actions.”

    Cops shoot an unarmed person in a car? He was coming right at us!

    Cops shoots an unarmed person at close proximity? He went for my gun!

    Cops shoot an unarmed person who is neither? I swear I saw a gun!

    And nothing else happens.

    1. You forgot to mention “waistbands”.

  10. He said he watched as they unleashed pepper spray, shot his brother with a Taser at least four times and struck him with batons. His brother, he recalled, looked stunned and cried, “What did I do wrong?”

    That’s it, I’m done for today. Probably done for a while. It’s always one tragic nutpunch after another. If one of my brothers ever got this treatment in front of me, I don’t know what I’d do.

    Scratch that, I know what I’d do. But it wouldn’t be pretty.

  11. When that one cop sits around the fearing for his safety, he sits around the fearing for his safety.

  12. The authorities said Berry rammed a patrol car and then pinned a cop to another vehicle, and that deputies shot at Berry because they feared for that cop’s life.

    That’s what I don’t see on this video: a cop pinned by Berry’s car when the shots were fired. Its remotely possible, I guess, that there’s a cop pinned just out of view, but highly unlikely, especially since no other cops are looking at that part of the scene.

    But, if there is a cop pinned under there, it should be no problem to produce cop, and the injury report and medical records confirming that it happened.

    1. I’m going to guess it’s at the end. The door is open, the car is in reverse, and there’s a cop trying to enter the car

      1. I kinda see that. That cop probably got knocked down, but I just don’t see anybody pinned at the crucial moment.

        But, again, if there was a cop pinned by that last move of the car, there will be proof of it. Let’s see that proof.

        Which, thanks to the dipshit making the video, is almost entirely off-camera or obscured.

        1. There is a cop at the very end who seems to be getting up off the ground with assistance from one his tribesmen. But that would be “knocked down”, not pinned.

          1. I think the “rammed” that comes before the video really did happen before the video. But you have to substitute the word “bumped”.

            The cars appear to be in contact as the driver tries to nudge his way forward in the middle of the video. This is a weird place for the cars to be, unless the cruiser moved to block the driver as he tried to drive away earlier, and they ended up lightly bumping in the middle of the street. On a police report this bump is written down as “rammed”.

            This would also explain the instantaneous escalation to extreme violence that we see on the video. The police approach the car and open the door and immediately begin a very violent assault – particularly with the full arm swing baton blows. This is the kind of response that comes after a dangerous chase – a sort of adrenaline fueled street justice. So I’ll bet that there is indeed something before this video that includes failure to stop and ends with the two cars colliding in the street. A gentle collision to be sure (judging by the lack of visible damage), but enough to put the boys in blue into whup-ass mode instead of “calm down and evaluate mentally ill guy” mode.

  13. If the brother called and said “he looks like he is off his medication,” and that is the report the deputies received, I would assume that put them in a “he is an unpredictable crazy person,” mood, and they went in there thinking they were going to have to kick some ass (or kill).

    1. My experience in EMS bears this out. Bunch of roided gorillas.

      Thanks, officer, for hitting my patient in the face so that now instead of just transporting a restrained patient to the hospital, I now have to worry about maintaining their airway and them aspirating blood!

  14. I guess your ‘brothers’ weren’t so helpful after all, you delusional fuck.

  15. Trial by jury of their peers and then public hanging the next day.

    Justice.

  16. The deputies who arrived were immediately aggressive and escalated the situation

    There’s something new and different.

    “They said he accelerated and crashed into the police car. That did not happen ? I was there for the whole thing,”

    Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

  17. Chris Berry said that as a law enforcement officer, he is pained to be mixed up in what feels like a family fight. “I called one brother to help another brother and…”

    No dude, you only have one brother – Thin Blue Line.

  18. “Never. Call. The Cops.”

  19. What it looked like to me was parked police cars tightly boxing in the vehicle in question. Then the camera moves so I can no longer see the car behind the one in question, and later that car backs up. Why did they move the cop car so he had room to back up? They had him boxed in, & then chose to leave an opening?

  20. Perhaps the clearest, sharpest, best lite video of a police encounter that I have ever seen, and the fucking camera operator can’t keep it aimed at the action for more than one second in thirty. Nice shot of parked police cars though.

    1. Well to be fair, she’s doing two jobs. Or three. In addition to the videography, she’s trying to convince the police to quit beating the crap out of her brother. And she’s trying to convince her brother to get out of the car so they’ll quit having an excuse to beat the crap out of him.

      Oh, and she’s watching her brother get shot to death. So there are some heightened emotions at play here. I doubt her full attention was on the cell phone at the time.

  21. Chris Berry said that as a law enforcement officer, he is pained to be mixed up in what feels like a family fight. “I called one brother to help another brother and…”

    And I guess you, of all people, should have fuckin’ known better.

  22. Chris Berry said that as a law enforcement officer, he is pained to be mixed up in what feels like a family fight. “I called one brother to help another brother and…” He stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

    You called your unaccountable and homicidal psychopath brother to deal with your deranged brother. You won’t be making that call again for at least one of two reasons. The first one being that your actual brother is dead.

  23. The unthinking trust Americans have in their cops would be adorable were it not so unfounded and dangerous.

  24. To directly respond to the headline now that I have watched the video and had time to think about it – I disagree that it contradicts the official account.

    The “rammed before the video starts” part appears to be a stretch of the word “rammed”, but the conduct of the officers and position of the vehicles augers for there having been light contact between the vehicles prior to the video.

    The “pinned” officer is off screen – so even if an exaggeration, there is no doubt that he accelerated backward fairly aggressively and hits the officers with his car as he backs past a cruiser at his rear quarter panel. The “pinned” officer is likely caught between the driver’s car and the cruiser as he narrowly squeezes past. It was probably a very dangerous situation to be caught between those two cars.

    I don’t know if I caught all the details, but I don’t see anything inconsistent with their version. I’d say it confirms some of it and other bits are not shown. As you can read above, I have plenty of scorn for the police action in this case. But I don’t think your headline is at all accurate. The video does not appear to contradict the official version of events at all.

    1. Careful, you can get called a “cop-sucker” around here for opinions like that.

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