San Francisco Chronicle/Otis R. Taylor, Jr.
Last week, the city of Vallejo agreed to pay $5.7 million to the family of Ronell Foster.
According to the city attorney’s office, the settlement is the largest for a civil rights violation in the city’s history, but Paula McGowan, Foster’s mother, isn’t in the mood to celebrate. She’s still seeking justice for her son, who was fatally shot by a Vallejo police officer almost two years ago.
“There’s no amount of money that you can put on my son’s life,” she told me. “That’s not gonna bring my son back. That’s not gonna give me no peace. And it’s sure not going to give me closure.” . . .
Here’s a brief recap of what happened on Feb. 13, 2018: Foster, 33, was bicycling on Sonoma Boulevard when Vallejo police Officer Ryan McMahon stopped Foster, because Foster was riding a bike at night without lights. According to his interview with police investigators, McMahon said that he wanted to stop Foster “to educate the public on the dangers that this person was creating for himself and the traffic on Sonoma Boulevard.”
He wanted to teach Foster a lesson he wouldn’t forget. Similar “outreach” by Vallejo officers has come at a hefty price. . . .
According to McMahon’s account, after he chased Foster into a dark alleyway, he fired his Taser and hit Foster multiple times with a flashlight. Then Foster grabbed the flashlight and threatened McMahon. But the body-cam video doesn’t back up McMahon. Rather, it shows Foster cowering on his back on the ground with McMahon standing over him. You see Foster get up and run before he gets shot.
Foster, a father of two young children, appeared to be running for his life, but in January the Solano County District Attorney’s Office declared the shooting was justified. . . .
The $5.7 million is more than double the $2.5 million settlement paid in 2018 for essentially calling kidnap-rape victim Denise Huskins and then-fiance Aaron Quinn liars and humiliating them.
The Foster settlement reflects how egregious the civil rights violation was, Michael Haddad, an attorney for the Foster family, told me. But will it send a message to the city and the Police Department?
“Until we have a major change of point of view in the city attorney’s office and the mayor’s office and the City Council, who continue to enable this lawless Police Department, I don’t think we’re going to see a change,” Haddad said. “From what I’ve seen, the corruption and the enabling of unconstitutional conduct goes throughout the command staff to the very top.
“Without a clean sweep of that, it’s hard for me to imagine real change happening.”