The group considered using a gun that shoots beanbags but decided against it, believing that the space was too small and that the weapon could kill Sullivan by accident.
Officer Keesor took the lead in talking to Sullivan. "I asked him what was going on. I asked him who he was. Questions along that line," Keesor recalled in a deposition.
HISTORY OF DEPRESSION
Sullivan was responsive to most of the questions. He was sweating profusely, and the cops said they believed he was high on cocaine or meth. A medical expert later hired by his family's lawyers testified that the amount of both substances found in his body through an autopsy were at very low levels and likely didn't contribute to his behavior that night.
Sullivan did have a history of depression, and the consultant, Douglas Tucker, a psychiatry professor at UC San Francisco, described him as "an unhappy and volatile individual who acts impulsively." A man who stayed at the townhouse, David Russell, testified that Sullivan was quiet and well-mannered and excelled at chess.
What happened in the next few minutes is where the testimony conflicts.
Just as an officer announced over the radio that the K-9 unit had arrived, Alvis says Sullivan's right arm moved suddenly. But the officer said she did not see his hands or arms outstretched or pointed at anyone. Morgado says he witnessed Sullivan's right shoulder move, but never saw his hand come out of the insulation. Keesor, however, stated that Sullivan "punched his arms straight out and pointed an object, [a] long, black slender object, which at that moment I believed to be a gun, towards the direction of officer Alvis." The officers say their view of Sullivan was partially obscured by wide ducts passing through the attic.
Reached at his Bay Area home, Keesor declined to comment. "I can't speak about this case, you know that," he said. A call to Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for the City Attorney's Office, which is representing the officers, was not returned.
Nisenbaum says Keesor "is the only officer there who claims that Asa had anything in his hand," meaning a weapon.
LOOKING FOR EXCUSES
Alexander Jason, a private crime scene analyst and former San Francisco patrol officer hired by attorneys for the city, contends the eyeglasses case may have been snapped shut, producing a sound interpreted as a gunshot. He also concluded that blood spatter on Asa's right arm was consistent with his having stretched out his arm "as if aiming a gun."
But there was no gun, so it's possible that one officer simply spooked another. "I heard gunfire and believed he was shooting at officer Alvis and I fired my weapon," Keesor testified. Bullets apparently pounded through the floor of the attic and narrowly missed an officer standing in the bathroom below Sullivan.
"At the end of the day, they're looking for excuses," Nisenbaum said. "That's all it is."
US District Judge Jeffrey White ruled Aug. 5 that there were enough unanswered questions for the case to be heard by a jury after both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The city has since taken that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, meaning it may be well past October before a trial begins.
Asa's mother, Kathleen Espinoza, says she has nothing against the police and that one of her close relatives works in law enforcement. "I've never been through something like this," Espinoza said. "I've never had anybody in my family die in such a horrible way. It's been really hard. I've been on jury duty once in my life, when I was in college."
The funeral director told Espinoza he'd never seen a body in worse shape than Sullivan's and that the reconstruction for an open-casket ceremony was tedious. Espinoza placed sunglasses on his face because his eyes were gone.
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