For the second time this week, the Orange County District Attorney’s office released body camera footage of an Anaheim police shooting. First, the OCDA cleared two cops in the fatal shooting of Peter Muntean in April after reviewing the tapes and all available evidence. Then, on Friday afternoon, the agency released a report declining to press charges against Anaheim policeman Matthew Bradley in the non-fatal shooting of Gerardo Ramos last November, but ruled it accidental in stark contrast to lies the officer told an investigator about the incident.
The trouble all began on Nov. 17, 2017 when police responded to a domestic violence call. Officers arrived at an apartment to find Ramos’ girlfriend distraught with a puncture wound and spray paint on her back. A week later, police returned to the apartment after another call; this time Ramos physically assaulted his girlfriend and locked her up in a garage. On both occasions, he fled the scene before police arrived. A relative of the battered woman gave officers a tip the following afternoon that Ramos was sleeping at his mother’s apartment where the prior incidents happened.
Shortly after the call, officers Bradley and Brian Moultrie walked into the apartment to arrest Ramos. His mother pointed them into the direction of a darkened bedroom. As the body camera footage reveals, Bradley calmly said “put your hands up” before firing a round just a second later. “Oh shit!” the officer said immediately after. “Hold on, hold on.” Ramos wailed in pain from the wound to his chest. Bradley told Moultrie to get a medical kit. While Moultrie did so, he ran into a fellow officer arriving on scene. “He accidentally shot the guy, bro,” Moultrie told him in passing.
But that’s not what Bradley told an OCDA investigator in a voluntary statement he gave. “It’s the police,” he claimed to have told Ramos before shooting him, although acknowledging that audio from the body camera footage details no such thing. That wasn’t the only discrepancy. Bradley also stated that he believed Ramos, a gang member, was going to come up with a gun beneath bed covers after shifting around. “I remember telling him, ‘yeah, I shot you ’cause I thought you [were] reaching for something,” he said. Again, the audio captures no such exchange.
“We reviewed the body camera stuff and people came to the conclusion that this was an accidental shooting,” an investigator told Bradley. “That’s absolutely not the case. I deliberately pulled the trigger because I feared that he was going to shoot Moultrie,” the officer replied.
The OCDA weighed the two possible scenarios in assessing charges: either Bradley intentionally shot Ramos out of reasonable fear or he accidentally shot him. The investigation found the former to be flimsy.
“This version of events is provided exclusively by Officer Bradley and it is highly suspect and questionable,” the report reads. “The only reasonable conclusion under the totality of the circumstances is Officer Bradley mistakenly pulled the trigger to his firearm while simultaneously attempting to illuminate a darkened room with his firearm’s mounted light wherein the pressure switch is directly below the trigger.”
To bolster the assessment, the OCDA points out that Bradley didn’t immediately seek to handcuff Ramos or search for any weapons on him. The report also notes an exchange between Ramos and Bradley that is audible on body camera footage. “I was laying down and you just shot me,” Ramos protested. “Yeah. Okay. Stay with me, stay with me,” Bradley replied. The cop didn’t take the opportunity to correct him. Ramos’ mother described Bradley as having looked “scared” after the shooting. Moultrie told investigators that his fellow officer looked “pale” and in “disbelief” after pulling the trigger.
But the evidence in the case also led the OCDA to conclude the shooting to be “legally excusable” because Bradley didn’t shoot Ramos with unlawful intent nor was there sufficient evidence of criminal negligence.
What about the fibs he told investigators?
“While Officer Bradley had no motive to intentionally shoot an unarmed Ramos, he certainly had a motive to lie about accidentally shooting Ramos, namely, a desire to avoid responsibility or departmental discipline, or perhaps even to avoid criminal prosecution for conduct while on duty,” the report reads. Even then, the OCDA reasons that Bradley only lied about his mental state before the shooting and didn’t frame up Ramos so he didn’t falsely report a crime. Neither did his false statements amount to any meaningful obstruction of the investigation.
Without a criminal case, all the OCDA could do is wag its finger.
“It is clearly unacceptable that a sworn police officer would lie to investigators in an attempt to justify an accidental shooting while on duty,” the report concludes. “The OCDA does not, in any way, shape or form condone the conduct of Officer Bradley in providing false statements to the OCDA investigator.”
Bradley has been on administrative leave since the officer-involved shooting last year. “Now that we have the completed OCDA investigation it becomes part of the larger overall administrative investigation,” Sgt. Darren Wyatt, Anaheim police spokesman, tells the Weekly. “I cannot discuss personnel issues, but disciplinary proceedings should be complete in the next few weeks.”
Until then, read the OCDA report in its entirety online.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!