She contacted the department and asked if they had talked to Darrell Langston. No, they told her, he was not a suspect, so OPD could not require him to come in for questioning. Over the years, her grief turned to confusion. "Why wouldn't the police go after him?" she wondered. She grew suspicious.

"When the police told me that CHP wasn't there, I believed them," she says. "Because I didn't believe the police would do that. I could not process the audacity of it."

Convinced that OPD's investigation would yield no answers, she pursued other avenues. In June 2010, she filed a complaint with Oakland's Citizens' Police Review Board, an independent body of local officials and laypeople, nominated by the mayor, confirmed by the City Council, and tasked with investigating accusations against the shield.

“His death changed everything,” says Diallo Neal’s mother, Gilda Baker. “Diallo was the glue.”
Anna Latino
“His death changed everything,” says Diallo Neal’s mother, Gilda Baker. “Diallo was the glue.”
Diallo Jr. now takes care of the candy-purple ‘68 Ford Falcon his dad fixed up years ago.
Anna Latino
Diallo Jr. now takes care of the candy-purple ‘68 Ford Falcon his dad fixed up years ago.

"My son was killed, hit by a motorcycle police officer," she wrote in the complaint form. "The Oakland Police Department did not conduct an investigation in spite of multiple witnesses who gave statements, they saw what happened." After reviewing OPD's work, the board ruled that her claimed were "Unfounded."

"There's nothing that revealed that the acts [Gilda alleged] occurred," says Patrick Caceres, the board's manager. "The burden is on the complainant to provide information that the alleged acts took place."

The OPD, he adds, "found that it was an accidental death because they did not associate anyone with causing harm and there were no suspects. OPD followed all of the right laws."

To overturn the department's initial conclusion, Caceres explains, the board would need to see a "preponderance of evidence" showing that the allegations "more likely than not" occurred.

Much of that evidence has faded with time. Witnesses have moved and changed phone numbers. According to CHP Sgt. Roberto Barrera, Officer Wong, who wrote the follow-up report, and Sergeants Warmerdam and Van Dyck, who "confirmed" that all CHP bikes were accounted for that night, have since retired.

More importantly, the key facts that would potentially undermine the CHP narrative are long gone.

Public records requests proved fruitless because the relevant records have been destroyed. Personnel files that would show which CHP officers were working or had just gotten off their shift on that October 2005 night were purged after five years. Dispatch logs and transcripts that would note any vehicular pursuits in the area were purged after three years. It's standard procedure. And the state does not keep digital archives.

"Every year, we have a big truck that comes in and shreds all sorts of materials," says Barrera. "There's such little information from that long ago. The records just aren't there."

While the CPRB concluded that the OPD conducted "a proper investigation into the incident," Caceres places blame on the mystery elsewhere.

"The reality of it is that there was another individual with him — what's his story?" he says. "His story is that he did not cooperate. There was nothing that said the other individual with him was required to provide testimony. It would have to be on his own volition.

"It would have been better if the person with him provided testimony," Caceres continues. "I think that would have helped the investigation. But he chose not to. And OPD didn't have a legal obligation to force him to."

At this point, Caceres acknowledges the reason for skepticism.

"To say OPD did wrong is not accurate," he says. "To say they could have done better would be more accurate. Did they do anything improper in their investigation? No. Could they have done a better job? Perhaps."

The "other individual" he is referring to, of course, is Darrell Langston. Should they have named him a suspect?

"Obviously in hindsight, yes," Caceres says. "You want to get as much information as you can. It just helps when the case isn't answered. Then all the information you have will be important."

The OPD has since recognized that its initial investigation was flawed. In 2010, around the same time Gilda filed her complaint with the CPRB, the case reached the department's Internal Affairs desk. The case was re-opened. But the leads were cold. The records were gone. And the department has not appeared to have advanced the investigation. But the OPD does recognize that there is a mystery to be solved.

"It was determined there may have been another rider with the victim," Rheta Sonnier, records supervisor for the OPD's Public Records Request Unit, says in an email. "It is unknown if the other rider is a witness or involved. We have a good idea who the other rider is, but he will not speak to us. We do not have enough evidence to compel him to speak to us. So the case is open until we can speak with the person of interest (who was an associate of the deceased)."


Diallo's family has lost much of its faith in its law enforcement institutions. Gilda has filed suit against the OPD and CHP, demanding "truth and justice" and $3.5 million in compensation. But even she doesn't know where to direct her anger. After all, there's already a surplus of venom targeting local law enforcement. In 2003, the city paid a total of $10.9 million to more than 100 people after four OPD officers faced charges of planting evidence and beating up suspects. In 2009, a BART police officer shot and killed an unarmed man at the Fruitvale station. In 2011, officers in riot gear fired tear gas canisters into a crowd of Occupy Oakland protesters outside City Hall, fracturing the skull of an Iraq War veteran in the process. In 2012, the East Bay Express reported that the OPD had solved less than a third of its homicide cases over the previous two years. And just this year, the Alameda County District Attorney's office admitted to wrongly convicting an accused murderer, who spent seven years in prison, and an accused rapist, who was locked up for 14 years.

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My Voice Nation Help
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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