Family of man killed by Vallejo police to receive $5.7 millionSan Francisco Chronicle, by Nora Mishanec, September 5, 2020
Vallejo officials have agreed to pay $5.7 million to the family of Ronell Foster, who was shot and killed by a Vallejo police officer in February 2018.
The officer, Ryan McMahon, was cleared of wrongdoing in January by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, which declared McMahon’s deadly use of force justified after an investigation that included body camera footage.
But Foster’s family brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against McMahon and the city.
Vallejo officials announced the settlement Friday. The city itself will pay the Foster family only $500,000. The rest will be paid by the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, a municipal insurance provider.
The Foster family is “happy the truth has finally come out,” Adanté Pointer, a lawyer for the family, said Friday.
“Ronell did not deserve to die,” Pointer said. “True justice would be to see Officer McMahon walking into court as a criminal defendant.
“What the family found most disturbing are the lies the city put out to justify his death when they knew the whole time Ronell’s death was not justified and the officer’s conduct flat-out wrong.”
Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams indicated his intent to fire McMahon in March, based in part on his conduct during another fatal shooting, that of 21-year old Willie McCoy. The termination is pending, a spokeswoman for the city said.
In a March letter to McMahon that was made public, Williams said McMahon endangered the lives of other police officers, neglected basic firearm safety and demonstrated “unsatisfactory work performance including, but not limited to, failure, incompetence,” in connection with the McCoy incident.
McMahon was temporarily placed on paid administrative leave following the fatal shooting of Foster, but was later cleared to return to duty. One year later, he was one of six officers who shot and killed McCoy, who was asleep in a car in a Taco Bell drive-through lane.
Vallejo police spokeswoman Brittany Jackson declined to provide details about McMahon’s leave, calling it a “pending personnel matter.” McMahon was paid $219,433 in salary and benefits in 2018, the year he shot Foster, according to public records.
Foster, 33, was riding a bike in downtown Vallejo without a headlamp the evening of Feb. 13, 2018, when he was spotted and pursued by McMahon, who later told investigators that he stopped Foster in order to “educate the public on the dangers that this person was creating for himself and the traffic on Sonoma Boulevard.”
After a brief pursuit, McMahon said, Foster grabbed his metal flashlight and tried to strike him during a physical altercation, prompting McMahon to open fire. Foster died at the scene after being shot in the back of the head.
Police later said McMahon had no choice but to use deadly force after Foster threatened him with the metal flashlight. Dark, grainy body camera footage released by the Vallejo Police Department at the time did not clearly show whether Foster presented the flashlight in the “threatening manner” that police described in statements following the shooting.
Foster’s family disputed the Police Department’s account of the encounter.