[The above video, possibly created by an Occupy protester, examines the shooting of Scott Olsen and identifies the shooter as an Oakland Police officer. The video was uploaded to Youtube on Oct.26, 2011.]
The Oakland Police Department's "independent" investigation into the shooting of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen during an Occupy Oakland protest may be ongoing, however an ambitious investigative journalist and editor, Ali Winston, may have already solved the case.
In the weeks and months afterward, rumors and accusations flew about the identity of the officer who fired the projectile that wounded Olsen, and the one who threw the concussion grenade on top of him. Rumors circulated on the Internet that either a San Francisco sheriff's deputy or an officer from the Palo Alto Police Department was responsible. Members of Anonymous even went so far as to publish pictures and the personal information of a San Francisco sheriff's deputy they believe tossed the stun grenade at Olsen.
But an extensive review of video footage and Oakland Police Department records by this reporter indicates that Robert Roche, an acting sergeant in the Oakland Police Department and member of OPD's "Tango Teams," threw the flash-bang at Olsen and his rescuers. It's also not the first time that Roche's actions have come under scrutiny. Police records show that Roche had previously killed three people in the line of duty.
In one clip of footage shot on October 25 by KTVU, the camera zooms in on a helmeted, gas-mask wearing officer in OPD insignia pointing a shotgun at the crowd. Olsen's inert body is also visible in front of the barriers. Another video clip shows the same officer training his shotgun on the crowd, lowering the firearm as a crowd gathers around Olsen, and stepping back behind a line of San Francisco sheriff's deputies on the barricade line. A grenade is then tossed at Olsen's body as rescuers arrive.
According to former San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey and Sergeant Kara Apple, a Palo Alto Police spokeswoman, officers from neither agency were equipped with less-than-lethal shotguns or flash-bang grenades that night. A list of OPD crowd-control munitions published by Al Jazeera last year includes the Remington .357 shotgun and two types of CS or pepper spray-loaded blast grenades.
Other evidence includes markings on Roche's uniform and helmet that were verified through OPD's records, both regular markings and those that identified him as a member of Oakland PD's "Tango Team," or tactical unit. Concurring reviews of the video evidence by three attorneys also bolster Winston's findings. '"From the positioning of that officer in the line and his weapon, it appears it was likely the same cop who tossed the grenade at the medics trying to help Scott Olsen," said R. Michael Flynn, president of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild."
The report also notes that Roche was cleared in two of the shooting deaths that involved him, however a third, the March 2008, shooting of fifteen-year-old Jose Buenrostro by Roche and two other officers led to a $500,000 wrongful death settlement from the City of Oakland in 2010.
Oakland's Tango Team was also on duty November 2nd of last year during the General Strike by Occupy Oakland. Another veteran, Kayvan Sabeghi, was seriously injured during that event. Video footage shows an unidentified OPD officer wearing a rucksack emblazoned with "Tango Team" striking Sabeghi with a baton. Sabeghi was later hospitalized for a ruptured spleen.