Cop kills homeless man: police investigation clears Oakland

Tom Boland (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 21:41:24 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  San Jose Mercury News - June 11, 1999


     By Shashank Bengali
     Mercury News Staff Writer

Ten years ago, Clarence Dorsey's medical insurance ran out on him.

   And on Tuesday evening, time ran out for the homeless schizophrenic when
he threatened a police officer in Oakland. The officer shot and killed him.

   On Wednesday, Dorsey's family said the 31-year-old had a chemical
imbalance but was ``harmless'' and should have posed no threat to the
officer, Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Glen Pace. However, an initial
Oakland police investigation cleared Pace of any wrongdoing. Investigations
by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and sheriff's department
are still pending.

   The incident reflects both the difficulty of obtaining medical insurance
for mental illness and the problems of dealing with the mentally ill in
society, family members said. But such cases are still unusual, according
to a spokesman for the homeless shelter where Dorsey had spent many recent
nights. In his experience, police encounters with the homeless rarely turn
violent, and officers are generally very understanding.

   ``This is the first time I've heard of anything like this,'' said Ray
Ysaguirre, who knew Dorsey by face.

   The shelter, Oakland Team Ministries, is just yards from the shooting
site -- and the fatal shot rang out during a Christian service inside.

   Pace shot Dorsey once in the upper torso when Dorsey moved toward him
and made a movement that simulated drawing a weapon. Dorsey was allegedly
tampering with a parked car in the 500 block of Seventh Street in Oakland
and ignored Pace's repeated orders to stop, police said.

Earlier scuffle

   Hours before the shooting, Dorsey had been released from Fremont City
Jail, where he had been held during the afternoon for resisting arrest and
scuffling with an officer.

   ``I never knew him to act up like that,'' said Dorsey's grandmother,
Elsie Jones, who spoke to him on the phone just minutes before he was shot
at 7:30 p.m.

   ``He called and we told him to come over for dinner,'' Jones said. ``He
said he would.''

   Dorsey's father said his son might have just wanted a place to stay.

   ``I think he was trying to have the officer take him in,'' Clarence
Dorsey II said. ``He probably just wanted a night of shelter in jail.''

   The younger Dorsey had become a regular at the Oakland shelter,
Ysaguirre said.

   ``He used to eat, come to our nightly religious service and spend nights
here,'' he said.

   Dorsey had also called Fremont's Central Park home, and was familiar to
several of the city's officers and park rangers, a police spokesman said.
His arrest record dates at least to December 1996.

   His family said Dorsey had been homeless since the age of 21, when his
medical insurance ceased to cover treatment for his mental illness.

   He tried to stay independent but never wanted to find a job, his father
said. He still visited his parents -- who are divorced but live near each
other in Oakland -- for meals a few times a month, or ``when things weren't
right with him,'' his father said.

   Last year, Dorsey's younger brother was killed in a drive-by shooting in

   Dorsey's father said his son's size -- 5-feet-11 and about 200 pounds --
may have seemed threatening to sheriff's deputy Pace, ``but Clarence was
sick. I think the cop behaved rashly.''

   But police say Pace acted appropriately.

   ``In this case . . (Dorsey) immediately gave the impression that he was
arming himself,'' said Oakland police Lt. Paul Berlin. ``Based on
interviews and what witnesses have told us, (Pace) used the only option
available to him.''

10-year deputy

   This is the first shooting that Pace has been involved in during his
10-year career. He has been placed on a standard three-day leave of absence
following the incident.

   Although police had cleared the officer, Dorsey's family was still
searching for answers.

   ``If they had arrested him and brought him in,'' Jones said, ``they
would have seen that he was sick and not dangerous.''


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