20 Nov Community Members Call for Police Oversight Committee at Antioch Council Meeting
Frank Sterling Jr. with Reimagine Antioch, protests outside A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez on July 21. He spoke at the Nov. 14 Antioch City Council meeting to call for a Police Oversight Committee. (Harika Maddala / Bay City News / Catchlight Local)
By Aly Brown
Bay City News
Many filled the chamber seats to clap in support of the handful of people who spoke publicly to demand that the city of Antioch make public all text messages and fire and decertify police officers connected to a corruption investigation that has led to charges against three Antioch officers for racist communications and excessive force.
The group also called for a police oversight committee comprised of community members with real powers.
Reimagine Antioch member and public speaker Francisco Torres said that while some members of the council had worked with the group, they could lose their seats in future elections.
“You won’t be here to protect us, so leave us with civilian commission oversight with power so we can protect ourselves, because the city managers didn’t do it, the police chiefs didn’t do it, and the past city council members didn’t do it,” Torres said.
On Aug. 16, a federal grand jury filed four indictments that collectively charged 10 current and former officers and employees from the Antioch and Pittsburg police departments with various crimes, including fraud, conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, interference with an investigation and illegal seizure and destruction of a telephone.
Though dozens of officers were tangled up in the investigation and put on leave, the fourth indictment charges only three Antioch police officers — Morteza Amiri, Eric Rombough and Devon Wenger — with conspiracy against rights and deprivation of rights under color of law. An investigation report released March 27 by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office detailed racist and homophobic text messages.
Kathryn Wade, who said her son Malad Baldwin was a victim of police brutality in 2014, at the council meeting expressed her shock when she read recent news articles reporting that Sgt. Rick Hoffman, the Antioch police union president, had signed off on what the FBI later called excessive use of force, stating “force appears to be within policy.”
Hoffman was named in the District Attorney’s Office investigation as being one of the officers sending communications. Wade also said Hoffman was the very officer who choked her son unconscious.
“You identified Malad Baldwin in the reports, but to the EMTs, you logged him in as a ‘John Doe,’ ” Wade continued, speaking to Hoffman, who was not present in the chambers. “My son was missing for two days.”
Frank Sterling said he had been attending court hearings regarding the police corruption case and experts had connected the officers’ behavior — bragging about wounds inflicted and plans for violence — to the days of slavery.
Sterling referred to the case of Angelo Quinto, a Filipino American veteran who was suffering from a mental health crisis in December 2020 when Antioch police were called. Quinto later died. A report from the District Attorney’s Office found the officers had restrained and kneeled on him.
The county coroner’s office determined that Quinto died from drug intoxication and “excited delirium syndrome,” a controversial term that has since been disavowed by medical associations.
“Police directed Sutter (Health) staff not to talk to the Quinto family … and the hospital staff listened and didn’t talk to the family when their son’s laying in a bed dying. Is that acceptable?” Sterling continue. “Who are the people at home, talking about hanging another one on the mantle? They’re in our community. So without full transparency, we don’t know who we’re shaking hands with.”
Leslie May also spoke on behalf of Reimagine Antioch and herself.
“I don’t feel protected,” said May, adding that the council needed to put the formation of an oversight committee back on its agenda. “I hate to always complain when I come here. I would love to come to this podium and speak positive words and happiness, but until we get justice, I will fight.”
Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, rebroadcast or redistribution without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. Bay City News is a 24/7 news service covering the greater Bay Area.