Jury Acquits in Police Involved Shooting of Unarmed Black Man Just Two Days After Michael Brown Shooting
Martinez, California—February 18, 2016—After just a day and a half of deliberations, a racially diverse jury of six women and six men acquitted 43 year old Quincy Andre Peoples of assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest by force or violence and corporal injury to spouse. Just two days after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, Richmond, California police officers opened fire on Peoples’ car as he drove out of an apartment complex deep within a low income area of the city. Peoples had been involved in a heated argument with his estranged wife when she called the police to report a property crime that amounted misdemeanor conduct. Seemingly unaware of police presence, Peoples terminated the contact with his estranged wife, got into his car and drove toward the parking lot exit. Officer Robert Branch, who had only been an officer for less than seven years, testified about how officers purposefully concealed their presence upon arrival at the scene. Branch was seen lying in wait in the dark and immediately pulling his gun on Peoples’ car as it drove past. Within seconds, Branch and his cover Officer Bashar Zeidan opened fire. They both testified they intended to hit the driver rather than the car. Zeidan testified he was not sure how shooting the driver would affect the car which he claimed was heading directly toward a third officer, Aaron Mandell. While video footage showed Mandell was never in the path of the car, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office refused to dismiss the case and instead sought a prison sentence for Peoples. Originally, Peoples was charged with assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest by force or violence. While the case awaited assignment to a trial department, the District Attorney’s Office empanelled a grand jury 16 months after the incident to add domestic violence charges. They also indicted Peoples on a misdemeanor hit and run charge because after five bullets struck his car, he lost control of it and crashed into a house. Peoples then fled for his life, fearing that if police found him, they would murder him. Judge John Laettner ultimately dismissed the hit and run charge but allowed Deputy District Attorney Diana Weiss to consolidate the indictment charges with the original assault on a peace officer and resisting charges. Weiss’s trial strategy consisted of trying to convince the jury they should believe the officers rather than the video because a video is two dimensional. Defense Attorney Qiana Washington argued, “seeing is believing” and the jurors should focus on the only evidence that did not have a motive to fabricate. Ultimately, Peoples prevailed on the serious charges and the jury elected to convict him of two misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest by delaying a peace officer in performance of his duties and spousal battery. Had Peoples been convicted of the felony charges, he faced more than 18 years in prison. Washington said, “We are very relieved with the result. I think this case shows that even in conservative, pro-law enforcement Contra Costa County, jurors are much more open to the possibility that officers can be violent and lie to protect themselves.” Peoples said, “I can finally sleep well tonight for the first time in a long time.”
Video footage and prior press coverage can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiqvewtfIoZ2588LJPqII7w.