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Indybay Feature
Tue Jul 21 2009 (Updated 07/22/09)
Oakland Police Kill Unarmed Fleeing Black Man
OPD Kills Parnell Smith, False Statements Already Emerge
"Copwatch 13" writes: Two Oakland police officers, Phong Tran and Scott Hewitt, shot and killed Parnell Smith on Wednesday, July 15th, near the corner of 16th Avenue and International Boulevard. Smith, who was unarmed when he was shot, was running away from Tran and Hewitt as they fired on him. On Thursday, when grilled about why police would shoot Smith if he was only running away, Oakland Police Spokesman Jeff Thomason initially said, "This was a gunfight...it was a gun battle that took place in the streets of Oakland." However, on Friday, Thomason acknowledged that his earlier statements were premature.

As inquiries continue, it is becoming increasingly evident that police were the only ones shooting and that they were trying to arrest a man for a crime he didn't commit. It all started Wednesday afternoon when Tran and Hewitt incorrectly thought that Smith was a wanted rape suspect simply because they were looking for a black man with a cane and Smith was black and had a cane. When they spotted Smith, they tried to arrest him. But Smith, who ostensibly did not want to be wrongfully charged with rape and be deprived of his freedom, chose to flee.

Oakland police admitted later that Smith was not the man that they were after. Police allege that in spite of their ultimately grave error, at some point early in their foot pursuit of Smith, Smith pointed a gun at them and then tossed the gun during the chase. They said Smith also swung his cane at them before he fled.

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