Federal jury awards estate and family of Sahleem Tindle Jr. $6,343,000 for wrongful shooting death by BART police officer

Youth who loved Sahleem Tindle display a memorial banner at a vigil and protest at the West Oakland BART Station on Feb. 13, 2018, the month following Sahleem’s murder on Jan. 3 by BART Officer Joseph Mateu. – Photo: Aaron Levy-Wolins, El Tecolote

by Lee Houskeeper

Oakland – Yesterday, in the courtroom of federal Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, the jury awarded $6,343,000 to the estate of Sahleem Tindle Jr., $5,735,000 for the violations of his federal civil rights for the use of excessive force and $1,900,000, reduced by 68 percent, to his two minor children.

On Jan. 3, 2018, at Seventh and Chester streets directly across from the West Oakland BART Station, Mr. Tindle was in an altercation with Rayvell Newton, whom he did not know, over a pair of shoes left in a bag on the street. Tindle, with his two minor children, his life partner and her sister, were traveling on BART to San Francisco when they were approached by Mr. Newton.

Sahleem Tindle’s older brother, Karim Mayfield, renowned as a boxer and community advocate, makes an impassioned call for justice at a BART Police Citizen Review Board meeting March 12, 2018. – Photo: Aaron Levy-Wolins, El Tecolote

A verbal dispute occurred regarding the shoes and shortly thereafter a physical altercation between the men occurred. A gun was produced, two shots were discharged, one striking Newton in the leg.

BART Officer Joseph Mateu, on duty at the West Oakland station, heard the shots and ran to the area. While running, he observed Tindle and Newton wrestling over a handgun. The officer had no information regarding who fired the weapon or who was the owner, nor did he seek to get information.

Officer Mateu approached the men, commanding them to show their hands. Neither man did. They were still wrestling over the gun. The officer perceived that Tindle was in control of the gun. Within seconds upon arriving on the scene the officer fired three shots into Tindle’s back.

Within seconds upon arriving on the scene the officer fired three shots into Tindle’s back.

Civil rights attorney John Burris stated, “The shooting was outrageous in that Tindle was shot in cold blood with his back to the officer while attempting to surrender by raising his empty left hand.” Burris went on to say, “Tindle could not raise his right hand because Newton was holding it down as they continued to struggle over the gun.”

Burris successfully argued that Officer Mateu panicked when he couldn’t see Tindle’s right hand and later admitted that he did see him and Newton struggling when he shot Tingle in the back. Burris also was critical of the officer for not giving a warning before firing his weapon contrary to BART policy that requires giving a warning when feasible. Once he saw the weapon, the officer had ample time to give a warning to both men.

Sahleem Tindle’s mother Yolanda Banks Reed demands at the March 12 meeting that BART Officer Joseph Mateu be charged with murder, but in October, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley decided his killing was justified. The victory John Burris has now won in civil court, therefore, is the first official support the family has received. – Photo: Aaron Levy-Wolins, El Tecolote

The trial (Case No. 4:18-cv-05755 YGR) lasted two weeks and was tried in two phases. In the first, the jury found Tindle’s constitutional rights were violated by the use of excessive force. They also found that Tindle possessed the gun at the time of the shooting and he also was attempting to surrender. The jury awarded his estate $5,735,000.

The last phase lasted three days. In the second phase, the jury found that Officer Mateu was negligent and also found that Tindle was negligent and made him 68 percent responsible. They awarded his children $1,900,000 reduced to $608,000.

Many family members attended every day of the trial and were very pleased with the outcome.

A press conference is scheduled for today, March 12, 1 p.m., in the Law Offices of John Burris, 7677 Oak Port St., Suite 1120, Oakland.

Contact Lee Houskeeper of San Francisco Stories at NewsService@aol.com or 415-654-9141.