Whistleblowing Wednesday: Cop Identified In Scott Olsen Incident Also Fatally Shot 3 People While On Duty
Oakland Police officer, Robert Roche has been identified as the officer who threw a flash-bang grenade at Iraqi veteran Scott Olsen and his rescuers on October 25th.
Video from the tear gas-soaked night of the 25th shows a prone Olsen lying in front of metal barricades and police in riot gear. As several protesters ran to Olsen’s aid, someone from the cluster of police appears to lob a flash-bang grenade into the crowd gathered around the young veteran. The stun grenade explodes amid a cloud of tear gas and deafening noise, scattering Olsen’s rescuers.
An extensive review of video footage and Oakland Police Department records by this reporter indicates that Robert Roche, an acting sergeant in the Oakland Police Department and member of OPD’s “Tango Teams,” threw the flash-bang at Olsen and his rescuers.
It’s also not the first time that Roche’s actions have come under scrutiny. Police records show that Roche had previously killed three people in the line of duty.
In one clip of footage shot on October 25 by KTVU, the camera zooms in on a helmeted, gas-mask wearing officer in OPD insignia pointing a shotgun at the crowd. Olsen’s inert body is also visible in front of the barriers. Another video clip shows the same officer training his shotgun on the crowd, lowering the firearm as a crowd gathers around Olsen, and stepping back behind a line of San Francisco sheriff’s deputies on the barricade line. A grenade is then tossed at Olsen’s body as rescuers arrive.
Roche is a rifle officer who has also served in gang enforcement units. He has been involved in three fatal shootings during his career:
- In 2006, he fatally shot seventeen-year-old Ronald Brazier after the teenager fired on Roche and two other officers.
- In 2007, Roche shot and killed an unarmed Jeremiah Dye in a crawlspace under an East Oakland house. Dye had run from police after his cousin shot and wounded an OPD officer during a traffic stop.
- In March 2008, fifteen-year-old Jose Buenrostro was shot to death by Roche and two other officers while in possession of a sawed-off rifle on 79th Avenue in East Oakland.
Buenrostro’s family received a $500,000 wrongful death settlement from the City of Oakland in 2010, even though police claimed that Buenrostro pointed the weapon at them. Buenrostro’s family contended that he did not threaten the officers.
Roche and Sergeant Ronald Holmgren, who supervised Tango Team 2 during the October 25 crowd control actions, were not assigned to the Tango detail on the evening of the November 2 General Strike, according to Oakland Police Department records. However, Roche was photographed on the street during the January 28 confrontation with Occupy Oakland protesters, shotgun in hand.
OPD’s “Tango teams,” or tactical teams, have been at the heart of some of the most intense clashes of the Occupy Oakland movement (see “Oakland Used Violent Cops Against Occupy,” 12/21/2012, “). Aside from the Olsen incident, video from the evening of the November 2 General Strike shows an unidentified OPD officer wearing a rucksack emblazoned with “Tango Team” striking US Army veteran Kayvan Sabeghi with a baton. Sabeghi was later hospitalized for a ruptured spleen.