Chauncey Bailey Project

Documents say Oakland police beat suspect who died

Capt. Ed Poulson, shown here in a file photo from Sept. 28, 2000, where protestors picket against police brutality outside the Oakland Police Department in Oakland, Calif., was suspended Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, as part of an FBI investigation into his role in the beating death of a drug suspect. (Nick Lammers/Oakland Tribune)
Capt. Ed Poulson, shown here in a file photo from Sept. 28, 2000, where protestors picket against police brutality outside the Oakland Police Department in Oakland, Calif., was suspended Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, as part of an FBI investigation into his role in the beating death of a drug suspect. (Nick Lammers/Oakland Tribune)

Capt. Ed Poulson, shown here in a file photo from Sept. 28, 2000, where protestors picket against police brutality outside the Oakland Police Department in Oakland, Calif., was suspended Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, as part of an FBI investigation into his role in the beating death of a drug suspect. (Nick Lammers/Oakland Tribune)

By Thomas Peele and Bob Butler, The Chauncey Bailey Project

About 7:10 p.m. March 23, 2000, on Holly Street near 73rd Avenue in East Oakland, a man named Jerry Andrew Amaro III bought two “dimes” of what he thought was rock cocaine from undercover police officers posing as drug dealers.

When the officers went to arrest Amaro, 38, he ran and was tackled before he surrendered.

Then, according to officers who have read Internal Affairs documents about the matter, Lt. Edward Poulson kicked Amaro several times in the ribs as he lay on the ground.

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About a month later, Amaro died of complications from broken ribs, according to a coroner’s report. His body was found surrounded by drug paraphernalia on the dirt floor of a friend’s basement April 21, 2000, according to police documents.

An envelope containing X-rays of his broken ribs was found near his body.

Amaro told several people he was beaten by police, including a doctor who treated him April 17, 2000.

He had been treated several times at a free clinic but declined hospitalization, perhaps because of a drug addiction, according to police documents.

An autopsy showed that Amaro had five ribs that were healing after blunt force trauma to his chest and that he had died of pneumonia and a collapsed left lung, according to documents.

Then-homicide Sgt. Gus Galindo investigated the case aggressively, according to his 12 pages of case notes obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project. He interviewed Poulson and six others present during the arrest. Each said they saw no one strike Amaro.

But when the Internal Affairs Division began investigating the matter, the same officers who told Galindo there was no use of force changed their stories. They said Poulson had kicked Amaro and had told them to say Amaro wasn’t assaulted, according to officers who have read documents about the case.

Eventually, Internal Affairs investigators recommended Poulson be fired for the failure to be truthful, for telling the officers to lie and for interfering in an Internal Affairs investigation.

Then-Chief Richard Word downgraded the discipline to a two-week suspension without pay. Word said in a recent interview he could not discuss why he didn’t follow the recommendation and fire Poulson, citing confidentiality laws.

Civil rights lawyer John Burris said late Thursday he looked into Amaro’s death shortly after it happened but couldn’t get enough facts to bring a case on behalf of his family.

“Now it turns out there might have been a real cover-up that could have prevented me from getting info, and I’m pleased that in the very least it’s surfacing now,” Burris said.

“It was a very unsatisfying experience for me,” Burris added. “I had the sense that he had been killed by the police but couldn’t get the info to corroborate that. I felt really bad for the family, and they were so adamant. I didn’t walk away feeling like I had done my job.”

Amaro’s survivors could not be reached late Thursday.

Oakland Tribune reporter Kamika Dunlap contributed to this report.

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