An Oakland police officer “followed policy” when he detained an off-duty Oakland firefighter and his two young sons who had stopped to make sure an East Oakland fire station was secure earlier this month, police said this afternoon.
Firefighter Keith Jones, a 15-year veteran of the department, said the “nervous” officer, crouched with his hand on his gun, kept his 9- and 12-year-old sons with their hands up outside Oakland’s Fire Station 29 at 1016 66th Ave. the night of Aug. 15.
The incident has left his two young sons afraid of the police, said Jones, who has filed a complaint against the department. Oakland police released a statement this afternoon saying that the department’s internal review of the incident was complete and investigators found that the officer acted within policy. The department also released body-mounted camera footage of the incident from two officers.
Jones said when he filed the complaint Sunday, he spoke to a police sergeant who identified the officer as an academy graduate from March 2013, Officer Anthony Martinelli.
In his graduation, Martinelli earned the “Top Gun” award for earning the highest score in the firearms exam, according to police.
The Oakland Fire Department called Oakland police at 10:39 p.m. the night of the incident because the doors of Station 29 might have been left open, police said. A police officer arrived at 10:51 p.m.
Jones was coming home from an Oakland Raiders game when he noticed the open doors and asked his sons to wait outside while he checked out the firehouse and made sure everything was secure. When he returned, Jones said that Martinelli had arrived and told him to stop and put his hands up.
His two sons already had their hands up as the officer kept a crouched position with his hand on the butt of his service weapon, according to Jones. His sons were shaking and crying, Jones said.
Jones tried to inform Martinelli that he was a firefighter and wanted to check out the station, told him his truck was parked nearby and that he was carrying his firefighter’s ID, but he said the officer would not listen and told him:
“Don’t move keep your hands up.”
Eventually Martinelli told Jones to turn around to see if he had any weapons, and an already nervous Jones said he grew more apprehensive as he didn’t want the officer, who he described as “unstable” and “scared,” to interpret his movements as threatening.
Martinelli then allowed Jones to take his ID from his pocket, and, while remaining in the crouched position with his hand on his gun, he reached forward and took the ID. Martinelli told Jones then he could take hands down but still told him “not to move” as he took Jones’ ID across the street to check it out.
Other Oakland police officers then arrived and approached the two children from behind, their hands still in the air. Jones asked the officers if he could check on his kids. They “grabbed me and held me like never before,” Jones said.
The video from Martinelli’s body-mounted camera shows little of the interaction as it was taken at night in dim light. Martinelli can be heard yelling orders to keep their hands up, and after about a minute or 90 seconds is convinced that Jones is a firefighter.
In the video, Martinelli goes back to his patrol car and checks out Jones’ ID, then returns and hands it to Jones and apologizes. Jones locked up the fire station, got in his truck and left.
Jones said that his concern in the case is the disregard that Martinelli showed his sons by approaching them without asking questions, and instead treating them as a threat. The video does not show the initial interaction between the officer and the two children.
“Why not ask them what they’re doing? Are they OK?”
The incident has left his sons afraid of police, as Jones and both his sons all were thinking the same thing: the officer was going to shoot them:
“It can affect them and how they view police for the rest of their lives. … That can be detrimental … when they have to deal with police officers in the future.”
In filing the complaint Sunday, Jones said he learned that the officer had already run the plates on his truck and identified it as being owned by an Oakland firefighter — making his explanation for being at the fire station all the more plausible:
“I felt he should not be an officer out on the streets of Oakland. Or if he is, he needs more training.”
Firefighters are “trained to handle stressful situations. Oakland officers should be the same,” Jones added.
Jones, who is black, also said that he believes there is a racial motivation for the way Martinelli approached him and his children:
“I think if we’re in Piedmont, Danville, Pleasanton, I know this officer wouldn’t have treated a 9- or 12-year-old that way. … I think they have a lot of young officers that don’t really connect with the makeup of Oakland.”
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed called the incident “unfortunate” in a statement Wednesday:
“We are very concerned about the impact this may have on Firefighter Jones’ young children, and hope they will quickly forget this traumatic incident.”
Reed said she would hold comment until an investigation was completed and made her statement before Oakland police released the video. She added:
“However, should anything like this occur again it is my hope that once identification is produced and identity established, officers will stand-down.”
Jones said today he intended to take no legal action:
“What I would like to come out of this is for the officers to have better training and to review whatever policy they have for dealing with minors and dealing with kids. … I know they’re in a tough job, just as we are, but kids need to be treated differently.”