Robert Adams, known as Rob to his family, was shot Saturday in the parking lot of a business. Police say Adams had a gun in his hand as he was running from two officers, but his family believes he was holding his cell phone.
“This is a classic example of ‘shoot first, ask questions later,'” Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Adams’ family, said in a news conference Wednesday, adding, “What we witnessed was a young man unnecessarily and unjustifiably being murdered.”
“I just want answers,” Adams’ mother Tamika Deavila King said at the conference, nodding to the crowd gathered behind her. “This is all his family. My son was well-loved.”
Police say that two uniformed officers drove into a parking lot in an unmarked car to conduct surveillance after they received a tip from an informant about the location. When the officers pulled into the lot, police say Adams began to walk toward the car with a gun in his hand.
Adams can be seen in surveillance footage walking toward the officers holding an object.
When the officers got out of the car, they gave Adams “verbal commands” and briefly chased him as Adams “immediately ran toward two parked vehicles with the gun in his right hand,” San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman said in a briefing.
“Seeing that he had no outlet, they believed he intended to use the vehicle as cover to shoot at them,” Goodman said. “The officer saw Adams look over his left shoulder with the gun still in his right hand. Fearing that bystanders or the officers’ lives were in danger, one of the officers fired his gun, striking Adams.”
The first several seconds of the body-worn camera footage from the officer who shot Adams does not have audio, so it is unclear whether the officers identified themselves or what commands they may have given him. Goodman says witnesses confirmed that the officers gave Adams commands, but did not elaborate on what the officers said.
Crump criticized the actions of police in the video, emphasizing the officers’ car could not be identified as a police vehicle and that officers quickly drew their guns upon exiting the vehicle.
Surveillance video shows Adams running from officers in between two cars that are parked up against what appears to be a brick wall. The body-worn camera footage shows Adams holding an object in his hand as he runs from officers.
A loaded handgun was recovered at the scene, Goodman said, noting that the location of the shooting has a history of criminal activity, including one incident that involved Adams as a suspect.
King says she was on the phone with her son at the time of the shooting and described hearing it unfold through the phone. She believes her son was holding his cell phone in his hand, not a gun.
“I was on the phone and all I heard after that was gunshots. He never told me goodbye,” she said.
A protest is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday.
An internal administrative investigation is being conducted by the police department, Goodman said. Once that investigation is completed, it will be sent to the DA’s office for a full review. That independent assessment will be publicly released. The process typically takes several months, according to Jacquelyn Rodriguez, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office.
California’s Department of Justice is aware of the incident, but currently not investigating, according to an email from the Attorney General’s press office.