Law enforcement officials described the shooting of an unarmed man killed by Concord police officers while fleeing from undercover cops in Antioch last year at a coroner’s inquest on Thursday in Martinez, and after deliberations, the 12 person jury determined 21-year-old Charles Burns died at the hands of another person.
At an inquest attended by many friends and relatives of Burns, investigators testified that officers shot Burns multiple times on May 10, 2013 after seeing him reach into his waistband for what they believed was a gun.
He was declared dead at the scene, and an autopsy showed that he had been shot 10 times and died from three fatal gunshot wounds, forensic pathologist Dr. Arthur Josselson testified.
The shooting occurred around 9 p.m. around the corner from Burns’ home in the 2700 block of Barcelona Circle in Antioch, according to police.
Concord police officers had planned to serve a search warrant at the home on drug sales charges but arrived to find Burns getting into a truck driven by his friend, Bay Point resident Bobby Lawrence, according to investigators’ testimony.
One of the officers drove up in an unmarked minivan to block the truck from leaving the area, but Lawrence kept driving, colliding with the minivan and several parked cars, testified John Conaty, a senior inspector for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
At the intersection of Barcelona Circle and Buchanan Road, the truck stopped, Burns exited the passenger-side door and started running, according to investigators’ testimony.
As he ran across Buchanan Road, two officers saw Burns reach into his waistband, withdraw a metallic object that they believed was a gun and turn toward them, investigators testified.
Both of the officers who shot Burns reported hearing other officers identify themselves as police and command Burns to stop and get on the ground, and one said he heard another officer yell, “He’s reaching!”
Antioch police Detective James Stenger testified. Fearing that they and their colleagues would be shot, the two officers fired more than nine rounds at the suspect, investigators testified. Burns fell to the ground and rolled onto his back and a police K-9 at the scene bit him in the shoulder and arm, investigators testified.
He was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. Officers approached and saw that Burns “had a cellphone clutched
in his left hand,” Parodi testified.
He was also carrying a plastic bag filled with 88 OxyCodone pills, according to police. Parodi testified that Burns “may have been trying to grab the bag (from his waistband) to throw it out” just before he was shot.
The foot chase and shooting all happened within the span of a few seconds, investigators testified.
Listening to the testimony in court, some of Burns’ friends and relatives dabbed at tears and voiced their disbelief.
Many who gathered outside the courtroom after the hearing wore blue t-shirts bearing his photo.
“I think (police) are trying to make him look bad,” said Burns’ aunt Cathy Burns, who said her nephew was not a violent person and was caring and devoted to his loved ones.
“I really hope justice is served,” she said.
Last week, Burns’ parents and Bobby Lawrence filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that Concord police officers maliciously executed Burns and conspired with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office to conceal key facts in the case.
“This was cold-blooded murder,” said Jack Lacey of Bay Point, a longtime family friend of the Burns family.
Peter Johnson, an attorney representing the family, said the inquest was “a forum for police to justify their actions” and that
investigators purposely omitted facts in the case.
Inquests are held in Contra Costa County whenever there is an officer-involved death.
During deliberations, the jury had to determine whether Burns’ death was an accident, at the hands of another person other than accident, suicide or by natural causes.
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