Potentially explosive meeting in Hayward as police chief appears with Gonsalez family

Family and friends of Agustin Gonsalez, the 29-year-old who was fatally shot by Hayward Police in November 2018, at a Hayward City Council meeting last March.

For six months, Agustin Gonsalez’s family has made impassioned pleas for Hayward elected officials to, at minimum, express words of sorrow for the loss of their son, who was shot and killed by Hayward Police last November. At most, the family wants an independent investigation of the incident in which two Hayward police officers fatally shot a purportedly knife-wielding Gonsalez. An investigation by Alameda County District Attorney’s office did not conclusively determine whether Gonsalez was holding anything in his hands when officers fired upon him up to 14 times. The report also acknowledged Gonsalez had a history of mental illness.
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The investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, reported last month, found insufficient evidence that the DA could successfully prosecute Hayward officers Phillip Woolley and Michael Clark for criminal misconduct.

For the most part, Hayward elected officials have offered few words of condolences since last December when the family began appearing en masse at Hayward City Council meetings, along with friends and police accountability activists. The family has repeatedly expressed frustration with the city leading to angry comments and belittling comments toward public officials that has led Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday to call recesses on at least two occasions to calm the situation, at the same time  threatening them with ejection from the meeting.

Family and friends have repeatedly suggested the inaction by a majority of the council is a result of contributions from the police union to some of their previous political campaigns. Instead, citing a direction from the city attorney, councilmembers said they cannot comment on the incident while the city conducts its own still-pending investigation of the shooting and because the Gonsalez family filed a lawsuit against the city last February.


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As a result, emotionally tense and angry tone of recent meetings has clearly rattled Hayward councilmembers in recent months. Tuesday night’s meeting, however, could be the most tense yet when Hayward Police Chief Mark Koller appears before the council to offer a year-end review of his department.

Koller, who is retiring this summer, will report on the city’s crime statistics, an overview of its police training regimen, and use-of-force statistics, among other issues. According to a staff memo, Hayward police officers reported instances of use-of-force on 160 occasions last year out of 126,442 calls for service.

Each issue has the potential to deeply inflame what has been a volatile situation between the Gonsalez family and the city.

Later, at Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Aisha Wahab, who has been the lone voice calling into question the police department’s handling of the November shooting, will formally ask her colleagues to place an item on a future agenda to debate whether to approve an independent investigation of use-of-force in the Gonsalez case. Wahab announced May 28 that she would make the request.

“An independent investigation is to ensure community trust in the respected police department, ensure that all life is sacred and to be preserved and protected, and to serve as a mechanism to ensure accountability, responsibility, and reliability in policies when engaging deadly use of force,” Wahab wrote in the referral.

Wahab is also asking the council whether to create a specific policy that triggers a third-party investigation whenever use-of-force is used by Hayward police, according to the referral. If approved by the council for consideration Tuesday night, the item could come before the council within six months, according to a timeline requested by Wahab.