A preliminary examination of the Berkeley Police shooting in January that left an armed robbery suspect with a gunshot wound to the jaw revealed that the “officer’s actions were legal”, new files show by BPD Thursday.
A final decision has not been made in the case: Berkeley PD’s internal affairs office has not completed its investigation, and the Berkeley police chief is yet to speak.
But a review by the department’s homicide unit found that Constable Madison Albrandt was legally justified when she once fired her pistol at Vincent Bryant, who was armed with a 13-foot metal chain, during of a brief confrontation with Berkeley police in January.
“I thought he was going to hit the sergeant with the chain,” Albrandt told a fellow officer, according to reports released this week, just after the Jan. 2 shooting in the courtyard of the Tang Center at UC Berkeley, in 2222 Bancroft Way, just east of Ellsworth Street. On the night of the shooting, Albrandt was immediately placed on leave as per department protocol, but has since returned to active duty.
Bryant, a parolee who was charged with several violent crimes in the days following the shooting, was described by police as delusional, inconsistent and aggressive when they attempted to take him into custody following a Report of theft from a pharmacy in downtown Berkeley at around 8:20 p.m.
In fact, according to records released Thursday, Bryant was held in a “5150” psychiatric emergency just five days before the shooting after he brandished a pole at a stranger on Milvia and Addison streets in downtown Berkeley on December 28, 2020.
On January 2, an officer who accompanied Bryant in the ambulance on his way to Highland Hospital in Oakland after being shot noticed that he was still wearing a medical bracelet, imprinted with the words “Adult Mental Health” on his. wrist.
In February, Bryant’s attorney, Adanté D. Pointer, filed documents announcing his intention to sue the city over the shooting. Pointer said police should have spent more time trying to defuse the situation and could have fired less lethal guns at Bryant from a greater distance to give him more time to comply with their orders.
“The officers should simply have continued to try to defuse and establish a rapport with Mr. Bryant in order to resolve the situation without unnecessary violence in accordance with officer training and the law,” Pointer said in a prepared statement. “Many of these ‘rest’ situations often take hours of verbal negotiation to end peacefully. “
Pointer said Bryant was now permanently disfigured and needed surgery and rehabilitation to regain use of his mouth. He seeks damages in excess of $ 25,000. Civil litigation will not continue until Bryant’s criminal case is resolved, he said.
Prior to the shooting, police previously said Bryant stole items and threatened an employee at the Walgreens Pharmacy at 2190 Shattuck Ave. Bryant’s attorney disputed the allegations and said what happened at Walgreens was a misunderstanding: that Bryant and store staff had argued over the terms of a comeback he was trying to make. .
Police were dispatched to find Bryant after the theft report, and they eventually located and surrounded him in the Tang Center yard. Officers first tried to talk to him, but were unable to convince him to surrender or drop his chain, according to BPD and body camera footage previously released.
Bryant was “very agitated,” police wrote in the new batch of files, repeatedly daring officers to shoot him and, at times, hitting the chain on the ground “like a whip.”
“Bryant was not responsive and appeared to be“ impaired ”or possibly had a“ mental health emergency. ”Bryant shouted unintelligible statements and described hallucinations of things that weren’t there,” police wrote. He “repeatedly threatened to use the metal chain to assault the officers for about 13 minutes.”
As Bryant moved around the courtyard, eventually standing atop a raised concrete bench, five officers took up positions in a sheltered walkway and “made a plan,” Albrandt said in an interview on Jan.5. with investigators and his lawyer. “The aim was to keep the topic ‘without anyone getting hurt’.”
Sgt. Van Huynh had formed the “contact team”, according to police records, designating Albrandt and another officer as “deadly cover” to protect the rest of the team as the group made their way to the yard to place Bryant. in custody.
The operation went quickly: As the team made their way to Bryant, Huynh repeatedly ordered him to drop the chain. Instead, Bryant walked towards the officers, forcing them to back up and collide, as he found himself as if to swing the chain, police said.
Several officers fired “less lethal” high-density foam projectiles at Bryant, but they had no effect, police said. Huynh estimated that Bryant was in front of him about 10 feet, putting the sergeant in “imminent danger”, when he heard a shot fired to his left.
Only five seconds had passed since the team entered the yard, according to the homicide investigator’s report.
An officer from the team told police Bryant had “started to ‘curl’ his right arm to swing the chain overhead” and “was almost within reach” when Albrandt fired his Glock 17 pistol.
“He had the chain in his hand and he was going to swing it,” Albrandt told investigators. “I knew if he finished swinging that chain, that Sergeant Van [Huynh] was going to be seriously injured if he wasn’t killed.
Albrandt said she aimed for the upper chest of Bryant. But the bullet eventually hit him in the jaw, shattering it and causing at least two of its teeth to fall out, according to documents released Thursday.
Bryant fell to the ground. Many officers said they initially did not realize he had been shot, or that a gun was fired at all, as several less deadly shells were also fired.
During the encounter, one of the contact team agents was hit by a foam bullet and left with a severe bruise on his leg.
Albrandt told investigators she assessed the entire scene, including Bryant’s behavior, how far away he was and the presence of a weapon, as well as the position of the other officers, when she fired her weapon: “My job [was] once there is a threat of serious bodily harm or death, this is the only time I would use death.
In February, Bryant told KTVU he felt the police had “prejudged” him and that, if they really knew him, “they would say they made a mistake.”
Police records released Thursday spanned several hundred pages in two batches (Part 1 and Part 2), and nearly 900 photographs, and included reports from more than a dozen officers who responded to the Tang Center court. January 2. witness to the incident, police wrote, a man who was sleeping outside on the north side of Bancroft Way across from the Tang Center when it all unfolded.
The witness, whose name was redacted, woke up to hearing “screams and screams” and saw a man swinging a chain, according to the homicide report, threatening to kill the police and their children.
“I thought it was pretty stupid of him to try to take out 20 cops with a chain… but I was just a little annoyed that he didn’t shut up,” the man told police. The screaming lasted about 10 minutes before the witness said he stopped paying attention and instead rolled a joint. It was then that the shooting took place: “He said he heard three gunshots and there was no more screaming,” police wrote.
According to records released this week, Bryant had just been released in July 2020 from a Southern California prison where he was serving a six-year sentence for burglary. He was released on parole until July 2022.
But that didn’t stop him from getting into trouble, according to police records. On December 20, 2020, Bryant was arrested in San Francisco after repeatedly pushing a woman who interrupted him stealing his car, police wrote. He threatened the woman with violence, police said, and officers recovered his stolen property when they arrested Bryant.
Authorities noted that prosecution in the Dec. 20 case had been “postponed for revocation of parole” and, as of June, Bryant had three outstanding warrants, for parole and probation violations, between other charges.
In the aftermath of the January 2 shooting, police released body camera footage and audio recording of the 911 call of the encounter.
The Jan. 2 incident was the first time a Berkeley policeman had shot and injured a suspect since 2012. Last year, a Berkeley policeman fired his gun at a driver fleeing a theft scene; she did not hit him but was eventually fired.