Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Prosecutor Settles Claims in Police Killing Case

Civil claims against a Bay Area prosecutor accused of conspiring to “execute” a 21-year-old man and cover up his murder were settled by the victim’s parents.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Civil claims against a Bay Area prosecutor accused of conspiring to “execute” a 21-year-old man and cover up his murder were settled by the victim’s parents.

Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Bell is one of 22 officials accused of plotting the “intentional” murder of Charles Burns, in the lawsuit Burns’s parents filed in February 2014.

John and Tammy Burns say police shot and killed their unarmed son in Antioch on May 10, 2013, after he fled from a truck being pulled over in a sting operation. The parents say their son had stopped to surrender to police when he was shot.

Their lawsuit accused Bell of making false statements on a police warrant, calling their son a member of a fictitious gang, to assign him a “falsely high and falsely dangerous level of criminality and risk.” They also claimed that Bell helped plan the operation in which their son was shot to death.

In a summary judgment motion in February, the county said Bell had no role in planning the sting operation and that Bell neither reviewed nor supported the affidavit filed by a Concord police detective to obtain a search warrant on Burns.

Bell said he did not know Concord police Det. Michael Hansen was investigating Burns when he, Bell, relayed rumors that Burns was distributing meth for a gang called the Bay Boys in a March 2013 email, according to a declaration Bell filed with the court.

The parties informed the court last week that claims against Bell would be dismissed pursuant to the terms of a settlement agreement.

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, County Counsel Office and Burns’ attorney Peter Johnson did not return phone calls Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Laurel Beeler dismissed a claim of deliberate indifference to medical needs against Bell in March 2016.

The parents said Bell “stood by and watched” as their son was executed and refused to help or intervene when a police dog attacked him after he fell in a hail of gunfire.

Beeler found that claim could not survive due to Bell’s “undisputed role during the actual shooting as an observer.”

Police say Burns was holding a cellphone when he was shot and carrying methamphetamine and ecstasy in his waistband, which led to the discovery of 1.5 pounds of meth, an illegal gun and $17,000 in cash at his home the day after his death.

Johnson, the family’s attorney, has called the police account “full of flat-out lies.”

The lawsuit accuses police of manipulating evidence and coordinating with each other to “conceal the true unlawful and heinous conduct of their fellow law enforcement personnel.”

Johnson has said the Burns shooting and allegations of a cover-up led to changes in how the county investigates police shootings.

A chief inspector for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said in March last year that the county now bars officers from reviewing police or body camera footage before they make official statements in police shooting investigations.

A jury trial against City of Concord et al. is set for Oct. 31.

Follow @NicholasIovino
Categories / Civil Rights

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.