The family of a man who died after he was crushed by a vehicle being chased by the police is suing the Oakland Police Department.
Lolomanaia “Lolo” Soakai’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against OPD after a “ghost pursuit,” or a chase without lights, sirens, or prior authorization. The car chase resulted in a crash that took Soakai’s life.
The family has retained noted civil rights attorney Adanté Pointer.
In June 2022, police allegedly followed a suspect at speeds up to 100 miles per hour through Oakland.
The Nissan 530Z was being chased and lost control of their vehicle. The vehicle crashed on International Boulevard and collided with a row of parked cars and motorcycles, crushing 27-year-old Soakai.
Lavina Soakai, Soakai’s mother, also experienced a broken back due to the crash. Three other people were injured in the collision.
Pointer states that OPD officers drove past the scene, and one remarked that he “hoped the driver of the Nissan had died in the crash.”
According to Pointer, the officers did not stop to aid or call for medical assistance and only returned to the scene after 911 was called.
Both officers were “pretending to be unaware of this horrendous crash.”
The press release stated that the officers gave chase after they reportedly saw the suspect’s vehicle at a sideshow. However, OPD’s policy since 2014 has “forbidden pursuits for nonviolent crimes,” according to Pointer.
The full policy is shared on the City of Oakland website: “Pursuits may only be initiated when there is reasonable suspicion to believe the fleeing individual committed a violent forcible crime and/or a crime involving the use of a firearm, or probable cause that the individual is in possession of a firearm.”
Pointer alleges that the officers attempted to get around the rule by following the suspect without turning on their emergency lights.
In Oakland, these lights automatically trigger a dash cam. And emergency lights and sirens play a critical role in warning bystanders that serious police activity is heading their way. This car came speeding like a missile out of the dark, killed a good man and left others with serious physical and psychological injuries. The decision to give chase, despite policy and without permission, caused this tragedy.
Pointer went on to describe the great loss this death was for Soakai’s family, “This was a man who took care of his widowed mother since his father died. He loved his job at Envoy Air, sang gospel in church and lived a quiet life devoted to family and friends.” The lawsuit is scheduled to be filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco on Thursday.