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Cal State San Bernardino police kill student during struggle

Three officers were trying to subdue the graduate student in an off-campus dorm. Officers shot him after he began kicking one of them in the head.

December 09, 2012|By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times
  • Cal State San Bernardino.
Cal State San Bernardino. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

Three Cal State San Bernardino police officers struggled with an unarmed graduate student for about seven minutes Saturday evening at an off-campus housing complex before growing fearful for their own safety and fatally shooting him, authorities said.

Bartholomew Williams, 38, exhibited "super-human-type strength" during the tussle, using the officers' pepper spray against them and grabbing one of their batons, said a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which is investigating the shooting.

Two of the officers fired at Williams after he wrestled the third officer to the ground and began kicking him in the head and torso, said spokesman Lt. Paul Williams. None of the officers was carrying a Taser.

"This became a prolonged, violent struggle," the spokesman said.

One of the officers was hospitalized after the incident and treated for minor injuries, he said.

The shooting occurred about 6:30 p.m. at University Village, a student housing complex on Northpark Boulevard where Bartholomew Williams lived.

The officers were responding to a report from a dorm staff member regarding Williams' alleged irrational behavior. Upon making contact with Williams in the hallway, the officers determined that he was a threat to himself and others and tried to arrest him. But they were unable to handcuff him.

The police spokesman described Williams as a muscular male who weighed more than 200 pounds. Family members told police he had suffered from a mental disorder and had stopped taking his medication, the spokesman said.

School officials said that Williams was pursuing a master's degree in educational instructional technology, and that he had first enrolled in summer 2011.

"This is a tragic day for the Cal State San Bernardino community," university President Tomás Morales said in a statement. "Words cannot express how truly saddened we are at this time. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all who knew him."

Morales also said the officers "performed their best to assure the safety of the campus community."

But civil rights activists called on the San Bernardino County district attorney's office to conduct an immediate investigation into the shooting.

"A fast-track, transparent probe by the D.A.'s office is the only way to ensure that all the facts in the tragedy are known and justice is done," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.

sam.allen@latimes.com

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