Oakley man's death at hands of police was suicide, jury rules
By Jonathan Lockett
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 09/24/2009 03:19:01 PM PDT
Updated: 09/24/2009 04:27:41 PM PDT
MARTINEZ An Oakley man yelled for Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies to shoot him in May before he pointed a gun at them, deputies testified Thursday during an inquest into the man's shooting death.
Oakley deputies had several conversations with Alan Openshaw, 37, during a pursuit that ended with him being shot 12 times in front of neighbors. Openshaw repeatedly pointed the BB gun at his head and neck, Sgt. Robert Roberts said.
Roberts said the barrel of the gun was pointed at him several times as Openshaw made the gestures. Roberts, thinking the gun fired bullets, pleaded with Openshaw to stop.
"I was begging him not to do that," he said.
The coroner's office holds inquests into all law enforcement-related and in-custody deaths in the county. A jury of 12 determines the manner of death based on testimony but does not assign criminal or civil liability.
The jury voted unanimously that Openshaw's death was a suicide.
Openshaw called sheriff's dispatch at about 5:45 p.m. May 9. Openshaw said he was on depression medication and that "he didn't want to live," prompting deputies to respond to his home on Almond Drive in Oakley.
When they got to his home, they didn't find Openshaw, which led to a search involving several law enforcement agencies. Openshaw was in phone contact with deputies as they searched, telling a deputy that he'd seen police vehicles driving past him.
Roberts said they thought Openshaw was in a truck and found him on Lois Lane, where negotiations began. After a motorist drove alongside Openshaw's truck, Openshaw fled to his home.
Openshaw was shot with high-velocity sponges before Roberts and at least four other deputies shot him. After being shot with the sponges, Openshaw retrieved his gun and pointed it directly at Roberts, prompting the deputy to fire three shots, according to testimony. Deputies testified to firing at nearly the same time.
Most of the bullets struck Openshaw in his lower body, said forensic pathologist Dr. Arnold Josselson.
"The situation escalated quickly," Roberts said.
An investigation found that Openshaw suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had been involved in domestic disputes with his wife in recent years.