Witnesses told the same story to the police. Though nearly 30 people were at the scene, the OPD report for the crash included accounts from just five of them. Many others, the report stated, "refused to speak." Of the five who did, two said they only heard the accident. The three who claimed to have seen it, though, told similar stories. Villiami Lauti, who did not sign a statement, "said that the second motorcycle 'looked' like a police motorcycle," one officer noted in the report. "I saw the CHP officer collide into the motorcycle with the side of his bike," Brandon Davis wrote in his statement. "I saw a motorcycle being chased by a highway patrol motorcycle officer," wrote Emma Washington. "I know that the officer chasing the first motorcycle was a highway patrol officer because his motorcycle and his uniform looks like the California Highway Patrol's motorcycle and uniform."

Five minutes after the first officers arrived, OPD contacted CHP's Golden Gate Communication Center about what the witnesses were saying. Fifteen minutes later, CHP sergeants Jay Van Dyck and Pete Warmerdam reached the scene. A CHP officer soon joined them. The agency quickly scrambled to eliminate the possibility of their involvement. According to the sergeants' subsequent report, the communication center "conducted a roll call, all five motor officers were accounted for and none of them were located near the accident scene." The OPD report likewise noted that both sergeants "confirmed that all of their motorcycle units were accounted for."

Van Dyck and Warmerdam pulled witnesses Davis and Washington aside, to show them the CHP officer's standard-issue BMW motorcycle. The officer turned on his engine, and the sergeants asked each witness if this bike looked and sounded like the one they saw.

Since Diallo’s death, his daughter, Diara (left), has excelled in school. Her mother, Star, turns the TV to football games on Sundays, as though her fiance were still beside her on the couch.
Anna Latino
Since Diallo’s death, his daughter, Diara (left), has excelled in school. Her mother, Star, turns the TV to football games on Sundays, as though her fiance were still beside her on the couch.
Diallo gained a reputation as a family man, eager to exchange ideas at barbershops.
Photo courtesy of Diallo Neal Jr.
Diallo gained a reputation as a family man, eager to exchange ideas at barbershops.

Both witnesses, the sergeants' report stated, said that the motorcycle they saw was louder and appeared different than this one. That was apparently enough proof. "Upon conclusion of these interviews," the sergeants wrote, "it was determined that CHP had no involvement in this collision."

But to Holly, who looked on from nearby as the men questioned the witnesses, the interviews were not so clear-cut. "Something just didn't seem right about it," he would say later. "They just seemed to want to insinuate that the guy crashed on his own, two motorcycles speeding, him and his partner, and he just crashed. It didn't sit well. They seemed like they were trying to dismiss what the multitude of people were saying."

When he returned to his desk that night, Holly called the office of civil rights attorney John Burris, leaving a message about his concerns, "just to have it on record. In case this came to light, it would be clear that it didn't pop in my head after the fact."

Burris would indeed check into things. By the time he assigned private investigator Ralph Hernandez to the case a month after the crash, the police investigation was effectively closed. OPD had not followed up with any witnesses, not pursued any leads. On Oct. 12, an anonymous woman had called the department to say that Darrell Langston confessed to her that he was with Diallo when he crashed. But OPD did not interview Langston and did not name him as a suspect. In the CHP's follow-up report a week or so after the accident, Officer W.K. Wong noted that "the second motorcycle that witnesses saw may have been Langston's motorcycle." But the report concluded that there was no wrongdoing. "The cause of this motorcycle collision is unsafe speed being ridden by Neal for the condition of the roadway," Wong wrote. "I recommend that no charges be filed in this matter and this case closed due to the fact that the offender caused his own death."

The crash went down in the official records as a one-vehicle accident.

Burris' law firm ultimately didn't take on the case — it didn't think there was enough physical evidence "to overcome the cloak of goodwill and righteousness that many people give the government," says Adante Pointer, who worked on the case. But the team members were not comforted by the details they did learn. "Just because we don't take a case, doesn't mean the case has no merit," he adds. "We just don't have unlimited resources."

Hernandez, in fact, was shocked by what he found. He tracked down witnesses who painted a picture that deeply disturbed even a man who had spent most of his career in law enforcement. He'd worked more criminal cases than he could count, first as a police officer in Half Moon Bay and Pittsburg for eight years, then as an investigator for the Contra Costa District Attorney's office for 17 more. This one stood out — the way conclusions came so quickly, the way Langston was disregarded, the way a fatal crash can be ruled a one-vehicle accident even though the only three eyewitnesses in a police report claimed a second motorcycle was involved. He didn't buy the official narrative.

"They received information that a cop was involved, that a cop was responsible, and they shut the case down like that?" he says. "From the outset it appears they were circling the wagons to protect their own. They were dismissing what witnesses were saying. They gave themselves up by not doing their jobs properly. It shows incompetence, or it shows a purposeful distortion of the truth."


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5 comments
gl5bak12
gl5bak12

JUSTICE FOR DIALLO SEKOU NEAL SR.

gm0622
gm0622

Troubling story. My thoughts and prayers to the family and friends.


gl5bak12
gl5bak12

Justice For Diallo Sekou Neal Sr.

There are answeres to many of the question needing to be answered.  Why arent the authorities asking these questions?  By failing to conduct an investigation ....every day they are breaking the law.   

gl5bak12
gl5bak12

The questions are answerable.  One in particular is, why did the authorities attempt to close an investgation they clearly knew had 2 motorcyles involved?  They covered up evidence for someone....for some reason.  They know the answer to why they did this.  OPD knows the answer to why when their procedure is to conduct investigations that happen on city streets, their own report says "CHP tok control of the investigation of Neal's death". OPD admits to violating it's own procedures.  If evidence has been distroyed, it should never have happened in a fatality,  Investigation beyond on the scene is a mandate invehicle fatal accidents.

gl5bak12
gl5bak12

The questions are answerable.  One in particular is, why did the authorities attempt to close an investgation they clearly knew had 2 motorcyles involved?  They covered up evidence for someone....for some reason.  They know the answer to why they did this.  OPD knows the answer to why when their procedure is to conduct investigations that happen on city streets, their own report says "CHP tok control of the investigation of Neal's death". OPD admits to violating it's own procedures.  If evidence has been distroyed, it should never have happened in a fatality,  Investigation beyond on the scene is a mandate invehicle fatal accidents.

 
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