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The Vallejo police war on rap music


  •   29 min reads
The Vallejo police war on rap music
Former Vallejo police Officer Joshua Coleman greets Nef The Pharaoh after detaining him during an interview in a still from Coleman's body camera video.
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TITLE: The Vallejo police war on rap music

DESCRIPTION: When a Vice film crew came to Vallejo to interview native rap sensation Nef the Pharaoh, Vallejo police officers showed up and detained everyone, giving cameras direct evidence of how police violence continues to shape the local rap scene. Using previously unreleased body camera footage, this episode illustrates how Vallejo native turned police officer, Joshua Coleman, feels about the community he once policed.

[Phone call ambi up]

00:00-00:09 TONE…

Just as the sun was beginning to set on July 7th, 20-16… Officer Joshua Coleman noticed something suspicious in the southernmost neighborhood of Vallejo, California… part of the San Francisco Bay Area. That evening… Coleman was working in full uniform… with fellow officer Jade McLeod… as patrol unit 3-ADAM-4…

Kelly: Dispatch, this is Kelly.
Coleman: Hey, Kelly. It’s Josh Coleman. How are you?
Kelly: I’m okay, how about you?
Coleman: Great. Hey, uh…

Coleman… badge number 6-11…. asked Kelly from dispatch about what backup was currently available. She relayed back that only two other units were free.

00:45-00:47 Coleman: Okay, can you put me on H&S activity…

H and S means California Health and Safety Code… which can include drug offenses. Instead… Coleman changed it to...

00:48 - 00:55 Coleman: Err… put me on suspicious activity at Porter and Winchester.
Kelly: Okay.

[ambi fade up]

The intersection of Porter and Winchester is near the top of a hill… across the Napa River from the former Mare Island Preserve. It’s a location well known to many in Bay Area law enforcement… including Joshua Coleman.

Coleman: Just don’t broadcast it. Have them meet me at the corner of…

[1:14]

Coleman didn’t want his location broadcasted… so… instead…. he asked 3-Paul-5 to meet him and McLeod… badge number 6-83.. around the corner at Third and McLane... just up from where Coleman spotted that alleged suspicious activity.  

As Coleman would later write in his report… he saw a group of men standing in the street… along with a film crew with boom microphones. Citing his previous experience and understanding of the area… Coleman wrote that he suspected that a music video-shoot was underway

00:00-00:10: I keep my money on my mind…

[fade under]

In that report… Coleman noted a specific local music video… “Land of the Bridges” ...that featured people displaying firearms.

[fade out]

Not long after Coleman’s call for backup… 3-Paul-5 arrived to help. That was Officers Matthew Komoda and Gary Jones... badge numbers 6-65 and 6-74… respectively.

[radio static]

Before the sun had even set that early July evening back in 2016…  officers in one Vallejo police SUV and two sedans aggressively drove toward what they perceived as a rap video shoot. McLeod and Coleman soon turned on their body cameras.

[body cam beep]

Coleman turned right on Porter… punching the gas…  and accelerating up the hill.

[00:23: Engine accelerating]

...and within 6 seconds… Coleman announced his person of interest....

00:27 - 00:32: Coleman: Gold Jacket. Gold Jacket. Gold Jacket. (Door alarm.) Gold Jacket. Gold Jacket.

Popping their doors open… Coleman and McLeod immediately began telling people to…

00:39: Coleman: Have a seat. Have a seat. Have a seat.

The first person McLeod encountered told them what was going on.

McLeod [00:38] : Sit down. What are you guys doing?
We’re shooting a video.
McLeod: Are you?
An interview, yes sir.

That interview was actually with Vice reporter Zach Goldbaum and crew. They were filming with Vallejo native Nef the Pharaoh… for the first episode of their second season of Noisey… a show that captured the cultures and artists in influential music scenes.

Nef’s popularity had recently exploded after appearing on E-40’s latest album… and on G-Eazy’s Endless Summer Tour… which included a show at the Shoreline Amphitheater the following night…

SLAPPIN:
If my shooter get shot, then I'mma finish his mission.
Currently on my second tour ever, this feels like heaven
They calling me the dude no Devin it's for my sevens

The Vice episode examined how gentrification, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter… all influence the Bay Area’s storied music culture.

And Vallejo Police provided them with direct evidence of that.

[tires screeching]

[4:05]

I’m Brian Krans. I’m a reporter with the Vallejo Sun. In this episode… we’re going to look at how policing and protests have helped shape the rich music scene in Vallejo… and how video shoots… like the one for Vice… have been targets for police scrutiny…

COLEMAN [41:32]: You have to understand that you were supporting a cause that is wrong. People being able to congregate in the middle of the street, drinking alcohol while carrying firearms is not the community you want to live in.

…and how officers target rap music…

BAUER [11:02]: And then he starts going on about his theory about how rap music is part of the problem. And he says at one point, "Whatever happened to people like Martin Luther King?" You know, they're not hanging out at rap video shoots. They’re not talking badly about the police.

Still… some of those officers are avid fans of hip-hop…

COLEMAN [17:03]: No bullshit... I’ve got a lot of respect for that last track you came out with man.

…or even rappers themselves…

DARDEN: Vallejo, Cali… [sirens] Check it out…

[5:06]

[PODCAST INTRO]

[ambi up]

Vallejo has a long line of famous musical acts calling it home at some point in their lives… from Sly and the Family Stone…

Everyday People: “IIIIIIII am everyday people…”

…to H.E.R…

SLIDE: Ooh I got five, you know it's all live
Tell me when to go, baby, when we gon' slide?
Baby, when we gon' slide?

[fade under]

…and E-40…

707: 7-oh-7. I’m throwing up the V.

…and his protege… Nef The Pharaoh…

[6:03]

707 [2:03]: I was taking a shit and Cousin Fik hit me up
He said "40 on the other line," I told that nigga "What?"

[fade under]

And musicians in Vallejo also have a long history of conflict with the police. The late Vallejo rapper Mac Dre’s 1992 song Punk Police has remained a protest staple…

[Punk Police fade up]

“Man, you punk police, I'm not the savage beast
You labeled us a ruthless G-A-N-G
But the biggest gangsters are on the VPD…”

Besides saying the biggest gangsters worked at the Vallejo police department… Mac Dre actually name-dropped a specific Vallejo police detective… who was investigating him and his associates for a string of robberies at banks and pizza parlors in the early 90s…

“They roughin' and cuffin' me, in jail they be duffin' me
Every damn day, mayne, they can't get enough of me
I could maybe understand if I was breaking the law
And I'ma dedicate this to Detective McGraw
He be steady accusing, but these cases he be losin’.

[fade under]

That’s Detective Dave McGraw… badge number 3-73.

[6:57]

Vallejo police are quick to point to the alleged danger at video shoots. In his report… Coleman mentioned a man who was killed at Vallejo video shoot in 2013… and one in 2015 he responded to where a suspect fled… and allegedly threw a gun into the nearby Mare Island strait.

Coleman wrote that in his ten years as a police officer… QUOTE “I have viewed an innumerable amount of music videos, filmed in Vallejo and containing local rap artists, that show people brandishing firearms.” END QUOTE

Solano County prosecutors have even introduced rap videos as evidence at trial… when trying people for murder related to alleged gang killings in Vallejo.

But an eventual Vallejo police lieutenant… who testified to starting a tradition in the department by bending the tips of their star-shaped badges following shootings … also turned one video shoot into a fatal one.

[7:47]

In 2010.. then-Vallejo police Sergeant Kent Tribble… badge number 5-88… shot and killed Guy Jarreau Jr. at a music video shoot… for this song… “I’m Sick of Just Living LIke This”... about escaping a world of recurring violence.

JARREAU SONG [0:50]: Why must I feel this way? I'm okay. Just the same all day long trying to shake it but it just won't change

According to a lawsuit filed by his family… Jarreau… originally from New Orleans… was an activist and student at Napa Valley Community College. He was assisting his classmates filming the video… when Tribble and other officers arrived and ordered them to disperse.

Here’s one of the artists… Martin L’Esperance… aka Marty Jr… speaking on Yo!TV videos…

MARTIN INT [0:22]: We was over there shooting a video on Sonoma, walking back and forth, you know, with the cameras. Guy was with us. He was like a security person for us. And he basically, you know, was there watching us, directing us tell him what we should do in a video and the cops pulled up on us, told him to stop but you know everybody was walking away. He walked into the alley. The cop just came over here right here on the sidewalk pointed into the alley shot twice at him. I didn't hear no warning, no nothing.

Vallejo police alleged that Jarreau pointed a gun at Tribble.

In a documentary released after his death… Jarreau recounted when a friend had asked him to point a camera at a police officer during a traffic stop… and he refused… because he didn’t want to get shot.

JARREAU DOC [7:39] My man wanted me to take the camera and shoot it at the police officers to get that on wax but I didn't think that I should do that because of the simple fact we ain't trying to rest in peace in my homeboy Virgil bro from New Orleans got killed by the policeman and rest in peace to the homie Oscar Grant

Two years after Tribble killed Jarreau… the Solano County District Attorney’s Office cleared Tribble of any criminal wrongdoing. The city settled his family’s lawsuit… for only 49 thousand dollars… in 2017.

[9:41]

Vallejo police continue to refuse to release any of the documents related to its investigation into the fatal shooting of Guy Jarreau Jr.

[pause]

2016 AX: Power to the people! Too black, too strong!

[fade under]

In the summer of 2016… protests against police violence were erupting across the country … in response to the police killings of two Black men… Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota… and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

[ax] No justice, no peace!

[fade under}

Those police killings resulted in an international showing of anger and unity… demanding police be held accountable for the violence and intimidation they inflict on those they’ve sworn to protect and serve… in support of people who continue to yearn to be free in their own communities.  

Vice intro: Listen. The past few days, some terrible shit has been going on in our f***ing country. And his shit keeps happening over and over and over again. And this shit is a problem.

In the midst of those protests… Viceland arrived in Vallejo to film an episode… about how Bay Area police impact the music that comes from it. It begins with a shot of Vallejo native Nef the Pharaoh standing in the middle of Porter Street… five young Black men to his right… and another four on his left. One is wearing a gold jacket.

It was July 7th, 2016 in Vallejo… and it was the golden hour around sunset. Nef turned to his side… noticing first one… then two… then three Vallejo police patrol vehicles charging up the hill.

ACT: [engines revving]

[cut]

Nef the Pharaoh was born and raised in South Vallejo. He came from a musical family. His uncle was a member of the Funky Aztecs… a Vallejo-based rap group active in the 1990s.

[11:38]

FUNKY AZTECS [0:17]: Straight up loco, that’s what the government calls me…

Nef won a talent show at Vallejo High School… and was featured on the front page of the Vallejo Times-Herald. Here he is recounting the story on Sway in the Morning.

SWAY [2:15]: I did a Vallejo high school talent show. I wasn't even able to be in high school and I won first place and got front page on the newspaper and it's been a rap every day.

[12:07]

Nef first gained recognition in 2014 with his song “Bitch, I’m from Vallejo.”

BITCH, I’M FROM VALLEJO: It’s that Magazine and Porter Street shit,
Standing on the 1000 block with all my niggas going in
I'mma bring the south back and I can put that on my kid
All I gotta do is spit and its an automatic hit

He soon got the attention of E-40… and appeared on his Sharp on All 4 Corners album. Nef’s 2015 song Big Tymin went viral…and he released his first EP later that year.

BIG TYMIN [0:40]: I’m getting cash money…

That video has 16 million views and counting.

[12:46]

[fade under]

[pause]

[Vice ambi fade up]

Before Vallejo police would be gunning their engines up Porter Street in July 2016… Zachary Goldbaum… the reporter with Vice... was talking with Nef while the two leaned up against a car.

07:04: ZACH: Yo, where are we right now?
Nef: We’re in South Vallejo, California.

The day… at that point… had been going well.

07:15: Nef: It’s calm. Yeah. It’s a good day so far.

On the episode… everyone headed down to M&M Liquors… a staple in the neighborhood that has appeared in several music videos… to pick up Backwoods and some of E-40’s latest drinks.

On their way out of the store… the owner made an observation… that Goldbaum wanted to know more about...

08:59: Zach: What was that he said?
Nef: They said every time they see a camera in the ‘hood something bad is going to happen.
Zach: Is that true?
Nef: Yeah.
Zach: Like when news cameras come out?
Nef: Everytime you see the news cameras out here, yeah… nigga got killed. It’s the only time you get a camera out here.

Nef also talked about how a Black man’s death is covered by the news media… especially when police are the ones doing the killing… something Vallejo police have… historically… been prolific in accomplishing…

NEF: …kill us off.

Soon… Nef and the other nine men lined up across the street to pose for the cameras.

09:48: Nef: The police is the biggest gang in America, my nigga. We not even out here worried about a nigga sliding through… we’re worring about the police coming through and slamming everyone on their heads into the ground until they have a goddamn seizure.

TIRES SCREECH.

[14:32]

Officer Josh Coleman and other Vallejo police officers would cite the mere presence of people filming on Porter Street in South Vallejo… as justification to rapidly approach a group of Black men… and immediately command each and every single one of them to sit on the curb.

(UNDER) 00:38: McLeod: Sit down.
00:39: Coleman: Have a seat.

Everyone complied… but police only directed the Black men in the middle of the street to the curb. They never asked the white reporter or camera crew to sit down.

Their cameras still rolling… the Vice crew documented McLeod allegedly finding a gun… specifically a Glock 19 with an extended magazine... on one of the men in the group… the one in the gold jacket Coleman first pointed out.

VICE 10:30: McLeod: Hey I got a gun right here. Josh, gun.  
01:14: Gun!
Nef’s friend: We got Nef the Pharaoh out here. Don’t cut. Keep those cameras rolling.
01:17: Vallejo 3-Adam-4 we have one gun out here.

[15:30]

Meanwhile… Coleman began to create a perimeter around the scene… telling people to move back to the other side of the street.

01:21: Hey. Hey. We have a gun out here. Please move out of the way. Please move out of the way.

McLeod... while searching the man in the gold jacket… warned Coleman about a woman coming up behind him.

01:35: White shirt across the street, Josh. Watch your six.

She was upset. She wanted to know why the police were there in the first place.

01:50 - 01:55: No, what is the reason why y’all messing with us?
Coleman: Ma’am, I’m a police officer.

I know what you is. I can see your badge.

(FADE UNDER)

Coleman said that he and other members of the Vallejo police department were there for a lawful purpose.

02:04: Coleman: I will explain it to you once we’re done. We have one man who is armed. I need you to step across the street, please.
I see. That’s my brother.
...tell you after I’m done...

More people came out of the nearby houses… concerned about what business police had in stopping everyone in the street… and what the end result could be.  

02:51: Okay, Okay.
Coleman: Ma’am. That’s your last warning.

Coleman wanted everyone out of the immediate area… including the Vice crew that continued to film.

03:01: Listen to me, camera crew, please. We have an armed man. We’re trying to set up a secured scene. The job is dangerous. Please take all of your equipment across the street.
Woman: Oh my god.
Coleman: You’re not helping. Across the street.

McLeod warned another officer about those cameras.

03:18: Hey, Martinez, they’re filming a video out here. They’re filming.  

But Coleman had lost his patience with one of the three women who weren’t moving across the street fast enough.

03:21: [Bleep], c’mon. I don’t need you to go to jail.

Coleman spent the next 48 seconds telling the woman to cross the street.

COLEMAN [04:11}: No, it’s done (muffled noises fade under).

Coleman proceeded to handcuff the woman… who had turned 21 just days earlier. More women came out into the street… young and old… saying he didn’t have any reason to arrest her.

VICE: 11:01: ...to be arresting her, to be harassing her.”
WOMAN: Please, no, don’t!

[17:37]

Holding the young woman’s left arm behind her back… Coleman walked her over to his SUV. As they came near it… he held her wrist with his left hand… and shoved her by the shoulder with his right. Her chest hit the side panel of his cruiser. Coleman shoved her again.

Her friend rushed over.

04:07: [Bleep] don’t resist!

McLeod and another officer stopped the second woman… just as she was about to reach for Coleman’s left arm… the one holding the young woman’s wrist.

BOTH K&C: (More screaming) [Bleep], please. Don’t resist.

Coleman handcuffed her.

04:32: You just wanted to make a point?
WOMAN: No, I was just trying to show I wasn’t in your scene. That’s my fucking baby daddy. What the fuck?
Coleman: Because you’re resisting me. C’mover here.
04:41 ALIYAH: Because you’re doing too much.
Coleman: No. He has a gun. He is in violation of the law.
Man: You ain’t got to grab on her like that.
COLEMAN: She could have walked across the street.
MAN: You don’t have to grab on her like that though.
COLEMAN: Get in the car.

[fade out]

The gun possession case would land on the desk of Solano County Deputy Public Defender Nick Filloy. He spoke with the Sun about how Vallejo police officers approached the scene on Porter Street in July 2016… and what they said to the people who live there.

FILLOY [30:10]: And when the cops are talking to my client, they’re saying these things to him. They use this rhetoric. And they say these things. They say, you know, we know you, your grandmother's house up there on Porter street is high ground and you can see everybody coming in and coming out. And you know, you're a soldier I know I understand. You're a soldier on the streets of Vallejo.

[19:09]

Here’s Officer Jade McCleod… interviewing the suspect… who we’re choosing not to name because charges against him were ultimately dropped.

MCLEOD [9:50]: You have to be ready, right? Essentially a soldier whether you like it or not. You're a soldier on the streets of Vallejo, if you're out there on the streets. You're a soldier.
FILLOY: This kid is like 18 years old, had no criminal record. They're telling him his grandmother's house is high ground in a war that he's a soldier.

Could they talk that way to a white kid and get away with it?

[19:37]

[fade under]

Coleman first joined the Vallejo Police Department in 2003. During recent court testimony he said that then-Sergeant Kent Tribble… the same officer who shot Guy Jarreau Jr.… pulled a gun on him… when Coleman was only a cadet in his early 20s.

By the time Coleman pulled up on Nef the Pharaoh… he had been involved in three shootings… the first of which was fatal.

During the same court testimony… Coleman said that Tribble bent his badge following that fatal shooting in 2013… a secretive practice to mark an on-duty shooting… that Tribble allegedly started with his brother… Todd Tribble… badge number 5-87… when they both were at the Concord Police Department… some twenty years ago.

Coleman declined to be interviewed for this episode.

Despite rushing up on what he thought was a music video shoot… Coleman is actually an avid hip-hop fan… who even lends his opinion on rap battles on his Facebook page.

[running man ambi up]  

Two months before interrupting the Vice interview… Coleman was one of three Vallejo police officers who appeared in a relatively viral video at the height of the Running Man challenge…  a viral dance video meme… set to Ghost Town DJs’ song My Boo.

Coleman saw the popular video format and texted his partner… Corporal Detective Jerome Bautista… badge number 560… saying they had to make their own version of it.

[sirens]

The video starts with dash-cam like footage from a police vehicle of officers pulling over a car… soon switching to body-cam like footage of an officer telling a young Black female driver that she had been speeding…

BAUTISTA: …I’ve been watching you.”

That set off the trademark shuffling dance…

Last night… I think of you

[music up and fade out]

Coleman… according to KPIX-5… shot and produced the music video of people in the street… himself. He told the local CBS affiliate that QUOTE: “We wanted to make the world a better place for one minute and thirteen seconds and I think we accomplished that.” END QUOTE.  

[ambi up]

[21:56]

At the Viceland shoot… Coleman put the woman he detained in the back of his squad car… and joined his fellow officers… who had detained others on the northwest curb of Porter Street.

16:47: Coleman: Who’s… who’s… what’s the occasion?

Another officer pointed down at Nef the Pharaoh... who was seated on the curb… in line with the other Black men detained en masse.

16:46: Coleman: Nah. Is that Nef the Pharaoh?

Yes, sir.

Coleman: Damn. Hey, man...

Coleman said… pointing with his arm and fingers outstretched... like a karate chop.

17:03: No bullshit... I’ve got a lot of respect for that last track you came out with man.

Nef kept his head down… nodding twice.

More neighbors came outside as Vallejo’s police helicopter hovered overhead. Zach Goldbaum... the Vice reporter... stood with his hands on top of his head… in disbelief of what just happened.

10:17: ACT: Whoop-whoop.
Zach: We were hanging out with Nef with a group of friends and girlfriends when three patrol cars appeared out of nowhere and started grabbing people.
VICE: 11:20: Zach: I don’t understand why they came up on them in the first place.

Vallejo police officers soon began releasing people… after they failed to find anyone else carrying weapons or illegal drugs. Their search for anyone on probation or parole also came back empty handed.

COLEMAN:  Making any money?

Coleman soon recognized another face in the crowd… Vallejo rapper Cousin Fik. They went to high school together. Coleman began lecturing him about the message being delivered in the music people listen to.  

COLEMAN [21:23]: Here’s the thing, man. I’ve known you for a long time. We go back a long ways… You make money and you profit off of delivering a certain message to the community, but that message is detrimental to people because then people want to be just like you. They want to hustle like you… and then you have young people out here carrying guns and they get popped for having guns and go to prison. You know what I mean?

[23:51]

Coleman went on to say that many young people don’t understand that much of the message in rap music is entertainment.

COLEMAN [23:32]: With this rap shit, because they know who you are, they get to see who you are, they get to see who E-40 is, they've met him, they believe it, they want to be just like him… Even if they're wrong, even if they don't understand it's entertainment, it's about money. It's about this, about people getting together, have fun, listen to music, whatever.
COLEMAN [24:02]: Until men like you, who have the ear of the people of this community and people like I, who also have the ear of this community, and we’re the same age and we’re going to be in this community for the next 15 to 20 years doing things, we’re actually going to be able to make an impact, start delivering the same exact message, we are not going to be able to do anything. People are still going to get killed. A hundred people are going to see it, and no one is going to say anything. And that’s wrong. And if people believe we’re out here to victimize people based on their skin, they’re absolutely flat-dead wrong.  

[pause]

After police let Nef and the others go… the Vice cameras caught his reaction to Coleman… who was nearly star-struck when he learned the camera crew was there for him.  

VICE: 12:14 - 12:24: Zach: Nef, what the fuck just happened here?
Nef: I don’t know. They was, we was just talking about this shit.
Zach: They say they liked your music though?
Nef: Yeah, that’s crazy.
VICE: 12:25: Nef: (mocking) You know who this is, it’s Nef the Pharaoh. I appreciate what you’re doing for the city. He was like, ‘I loved your last record.’
VICE: 12:35: Nef: We was just telling you about how it was a good day.
Zach: Yeah, it was unfortunate.

[25:39]

Nef and his friends soon left to attend a Black Lives Matter rally that night in Oakland... where protestors took over a section of Interstate 8-80.

AX

They also followed Nef to his concert with G-Eazy, Logic, YG and Yo Gotti in Mountain View the next night.

AX: Fuck Donald Trump

Officer Coleman… even told Nef… that he was going to be at the show.

COLEMAN [17:45]: Nef, you playing on Saturday night?
Say no.
COLEMAN: I'll be there. I'll be there
He'll be front row. He automatically front.
COLEMAN: I mean I make enough money to be up there.
I bet.
So, why not?

[Pause]

BAUER [8:41]: Strangely, after he detains all these guys, he's telling them he's actually has tickets or he's going to go see Nef the Pharaoh, himself, and he’s kind of complimenting Nef the Pharaoh.

Shane Bauer is an award-winning investigative reporter… whose extensive story on the Vallejo Police Department was published in The New Yorker in November 20-20.

BAUER [8:53] So on the one hand, he's like, you know, says he likes this guy's music. But on the other hand, the fact that this person is there, shooting a video is the reason that he detains all these people.

In his article… Bauer describes how Coleman approached certain scenarios… including a call to the post office months before he’d break up the Vice interview.

BAUER [4:13]: Coleman was dispatched to the post office to deal with the homeless man who was kind of having a mental health crisis, was threatening to harm himself. Coleman, when he arrived, he rushed in and Tased the guy and he noted in his police report later that as he was approaching the post office, he wondered if the man had a more sinister purpose, such as launching a terrorist attack on the post office and that was the reason that he tased him.
KRANS: And you found no indication that somebody was reporting a man who was making terroristic threats?
BAUER: No, no, no, no, no. Nothing at all like that.

But Coleman’s report about why he detained Nef the Pharaoh and those other men that July 2016 evening on Porter Street… and that a suspected rap video shoot was enough reason to detain and search everyone… caught Bauer’s eye.

BAUER [5:16]: That report was particularly interesting in all of the reports that I read from the Vallejo PD, this one really stood out.
Bauer [9:20]: for me reporting on this story, one of the things that I was hoping to do is to actually talk to some of the police officers in the Vallejo police department to kind of get an idea of, you know, how they viewed the violence, how they, what they're kind of what was going through their minds what their part of the story was, but none of them would talk to me. So this was really, for me, the kind of only moment the only time that I was able to really get a kind of unguarded view where a police officer is kind of explaining why he's doing something, why he detained all these people.

[body cam sounds]

COLEMAN [34:04]: I’m going to deal with her real quick. Grab homeboy. Slide to the left for me.

At Vallejo police headquarters… Coleman led the handcuffed 21-year-old woman he arrested for being in his scene… and had her sit in an interrogation room… to talk with her… about policing in America.

[36:04] taking off handcuffs.

After taking off her handcuffs… Coleman sat across a table from the woman… asking her where she went to school… and if she remembers studying social studies… explaining to her the laws that were broken that day… including drinking in public… and possession of a loaded gun… none of which she was accused of violating.    

COLEMAN [38:27]: You have to understand that we have a very difficult job to do and by interjecting yourself into that matter, you’re only making the situation worse.

[29:25]

COLEMAN [41:32]: You were supporting a cause that is wrong today. People being able to congregate in the middle of the street, drinking alcohol while carrying firearms. Is not the community you want to live in, is it?
ALIYAH: No.

But in speaking with the woman… Coleman never asked her why she and the cameras were out that day… continuing to assume everyone was there to film a rap video…

COLEMAN [41:58]: Do you like rap music? I like rap music. Do you like Nef the Pharaoh? I like Nef the Pharaoh. I think his music is pretty good. As a matter of fact, I’m going to see him in concert on Saturday. Right? But I’m going to see him in concert as a paying citizen who is going to be entertained in an environment where I can safely do so. Not so much a city street, right?

Coleman referenced several police killings… not by the name of the person killed… but the cities they occurred in. He referenced Baton Rouge… where officers killed Alton Sterling at close range… as he was allegedly reaching for a gun in his pocket.

Coleman alluded to the same thing being possible that day on Porter Street.

COLEMAN [43:05]: Now, do we want that to happen? No, which is why we try to make sure everybody sits down, everybody listens to our orders and we have a good safe distance between everybody out there and the reason why is because if there’s one gun, there’s more guns.

Vallejo police did not find any other guns on anyone on Porter Street that evening.

Coleman wanted the young woman to understand why police don’t want to shoot people… despite he and several other Vallejo officers being involved in multiple shootings… and being part of a club that commemorated those shootings by bending the tips of their badges.

45:09: COLEMAN: Let me ask you this… in the climate… in the political climate today… do you think any police officer wants to shoot a black person?
ALIYAH: So why do they?
COLEMAN: Because they’re protecting their lives… we’re protecting our lives.
45:22: If I don’t shoot… if a Baton Rouge police officer doesn’t shoot, the guy who’s reaching into his pocket for the gun, then that guy has the opportunity to shoot me or shoot my partner.

[fade under]

Here’s Shane Bauer again… describing Coleman’s conversation with the woman concerned about her child’s father being shot.

[31:11]

BAUER [10:18]: Coleman kind of gets defensive and says, ‘Hey, you know, there's no reason to think that police are just going to kind of run in and shoot people. Do you think we're trying to lose our jobs?’ this kind of thing.
COLEMAN: 47:05: I’m trying to ask you, think about it logically: do you think a police officer is going to risk his one-hundred thousand dollar a year job, all of his medical benefits, the pay that his family relies on, because he wants to shoot someone who’s Black?

Coleman’s total pay and benefits for 2016 exceeded 218-thousand dollars.

Coleman and the young woman went back and forth about police shootings… as she was concerned that police could have shot and killed the father of her child that day… if an officer became overwhelmed with the situation.  

BAUER [10:32]: And she's saying to him, you know, pretty calmly that look, I see this on TV, I see that police are shooting young black men who, you know, are not pulling guns on them. And he just kind of says to her, Oh, you're not processing, you're processing this emotion as unrealistic fears, what he says. And he just sort of dismisses what she’s saying and…

[32:35]

WOMAN: And the Johannes Mehserle. Why did he shoot somebody?…

The woman brought up Johannes Mehserle… the former BART officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant on New Year's Day in 2009 at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland… igniting the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Woman: They just shot him. They just shot that guy.

Grant was handcuffed and face down on a train platform when Mehserle shot him in the back. A jury later found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

While not naming it that way… Coleman said the police killing of Oscar Grant could have been avoided… if everyone just did what they were told… despite police officers escalating the situation.

ALIAH: What if you accidentally shot, what if you got overwhelmed and accidentally shot my baby daddy?
COLEMAN [51:34]: The Johannes Meserle thing happened because nobody was doing what they were asking to do, that, what they were asking them to do. If everybody just went along with the program and did what the officers asked to do, then Johannes Meserle would never have got overwhelmed. There would have never been a shooting. If Officer Johannes Mehserle walked up and said, ‘Hey, can you guys sit on the ground for me?’ ‘Yup.’ ‘Can you hand me your ID?’ Yep.

[33:39]

Coleman then typed on an imaginary keyboard.

COLEMAN [51:47]: Hey, were you guys involved in a fight? Nope. Okay. Are there any witnesses? No? Okay, have a great New Year’s. The crux of the issues is that there is a lack of respect for law now in this young culture. The young culture believes they can do whatever they want.
BAUER [11:02]: And then he, you know, starts going on about his theory about how, you know, rap music is kind of, you know, part of the problem. And, you know, he says her at one point. What, whatever happened to people like Martin Luther King, you know, they're not, they're not hanging out at rap video shoots. You know, what about Malcolm X.
BAUER [11:26]: …which is interesting to say, because these two men were very critical of police violence.  
COLEMAN [55:02]: You can’t sit here and talk about civil rights and police brutality and racial issues if you’re not living a clean life yourself. Martin Luther King wasn’t rapping about guns. Martin Luther King wasn’t smoking weed. Martin Luther King wasn’t hanging out at a rap video shoot with a bunch of people with guns talking about how the police are killing Black people. Martin Luther King wore a suit, was respectful, opened doors for women, led peaceful protests, was a peaceful man, who said, in his own words, that his dream was that people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their characters.
COLEMAN [45:00] But right now, you have a child with someone who carries guns and is hanging out at a video shoot in south Vallejo, bragging about whatever. That’s who you are. That’s who you’re associated with. That’s your content of your character. That’s who I know you as. Is that who you want to be known as?
A:  No.
COLEMAN: Right

Coleman… who is part Black again referenced growing up in Vallejo.

COLEMAN [1:01:48]: I’m not afraid. Just because I know you, just because I know Cousin Fik, just because I know what’s going on down there doesn’t mean I’m not going to drive into the middle of this gathering and handle business. This is what I’ve been asked to do by the City of Vallejo.  

Coleman then asked the woman if she was hurt.

COLEMAN [1:02:20]: I mean your wrists, your arms aren’t hurt? I tried not to, you know, you were kind of going HAM a little bit there for a minute, and I was, I didn’t want to, like, really, you know, hem you up. You okay?

She nodded.

COLEMAN: Just your pride hurt a little bit?

The woman shook her head.

COLEMAN: You don’t smile at all, huh?
[1:04:04] Anyway, you seem like a really nice person. I’m sorry we had to meet like this today. Truly. Do you believe me?

The woman nodded again.

[36:14]

BAUER [11:42]: And then he basically is like, Hey, do you want to go home? She said, Yes. And he basically makes her apologize to him a few times
COLEMAN [1:04:20]: Do you want to go home today?
ALIYAH: Yes.
COLEMAN: I want you to apologize to me.
ALIYAH: Sorry.
COLEMAN: That was a bad apology. I want you to really apologize. You know what you did wrong.
ALIYAH: Sorry.
COLEMAN: THat’s the best you have? That’s the best you have, just, I’m sorry. You don’t even say I’m sorry. You just said sorry. One word.
ALIYAH: Sorry for being in your scene.
COLEMAN: All right. I’m going to give you a citation.
ALIYAH: Why?
COLEMAN: Because you committed a crime. I’m a law enforcement officer. I have to enforce the law. So you broke the law, you have to go deal with the consequences.  

Solano County Court records do not show any citation for the woman related to that day.

Three months after that… on October 16, 20-16… Coleman was involved in his fourth shooting as a Vallejo police officer… the one at Starbucks… where afterwards… as Kent Tribble testified… he bent Coleman’s badge.  

Months after the Vice video shoot… a  warrant was issued for the young man in the gold jacket. He was arrested the following May.

It was for Filloy… the public defender assigned to the case… yet another one he’s had dealing with Joshua Coleman.

FILLOY [33:50]: He one time shouted at a client of mine across the street, who he thought was a drug dealer, Hey, man, stop dealing drugs or something to that effect. And the guy said something, you know, cussed him out or made some crack at him back across the street, and Coleman then turns his car, drives it across the street against traffic, jumps out and runs and tackles this guy. And you could tell when you read his reports, like he sees himself as the hero in this.

[38:03]

The gun possession charge came up for a preliminary hearing on August 18th, 20-18. In the time between… Coleman had been promoted to corporal… and left the Vallejo Police Department to be a Napa County Sheriff’s deputy… where he currently works.

[Viceland intro ding]

Despite the Viceland episode already airing… Coleman testified that the cameras on Porter Street back in 2016 were filming a rap video. He said that lower-budget videos typically have people brandishing firearms… and… according to a transcript of the hearing…  QUOTE “if the music itself is glorifying violence, murders and drug dealing, it only stands to reason that the people who are glorifying that are also going to have those items on them during the filming.” END QUOTE

That… to a sworn police officer… justified detaining everyone in a certain vicinity of those cameras.

FILLOY [24:20]: And at one point during the hearing, Josh Coleman is up on the stand. I'm cross-examining him and he tries to talk about ‘we detained some people and we were just talking to people in the judge, Judge Healy, actually turned his head and said, ‘You detained everybody out there.’

Judge Daniel Healy saw some problems with how Vallejo police approached the video shoot that day… including saything that being in a rap video… or being a young Black man running from pursuing police…. didn’t impute culpability.  

He said the stop showed a QUOTE “pattern of conduct toward the people that live in this neighborhood by these police officers.” END QUOTE

Judge Healy ruled there was no probable cause for Vallejo officers to detain the young man in the gold jacket in the first place… thus throwing out the gun possession charge.  

Coleman apparently didn’t handle it well.

FILLOY [31:30]: After the Viceland hearing, which I think was his last in Solano County… he was like fit to be tied. He was having a freakout out in the hallway outside the courtroom after testifying. One of the DA supervisors was sort of out in the hallway trying to calm Josh Coleman down. He really didn't understand why people didn't think he was doing the great work.

[long pause]

In 2019… Nef the Pharaoh would release a song titled “South Vallejo” …about the neighborhood he grew up in… and the same one police detained him in three years earlier.

I'm a Sou' City nigga, I swear, I swear
I'm a Sou' City nigga, I swear
M&M's liquor is the best though
In Vallejo, 'cause I say so

[fade under]

Like Mac Dre before him… Nef name-checked a specific Vallejo police officer…

VPD keep fuckin' with me (Fuck 'em)
If Darden come, we dortin', son
I'm not that dumb
Steve Darden appears in a recruitment video for the Vallejo Police Department, with former Officer Josh Coleman to his left. Photo: Vallejo Police Department.

That Darden referenced is Steve Darden… badge number 529. Darden has been notorious in the department for years… being involved in multiple fatal shootings and named in numerous civil rights lawsuits.

Darden is now a lieutenant in charge of the most northern beats in Vallejo… including the Country Club Crest neighborhood… also known as “the Crest” …the stomping grounds Mac Dre rapped about back in 2003.

MAC DRE [0:55]: The Crest has got me crazy, but I love the way it raised me…

Darden… a rapper himself… recorded songs about law enforcement… under his own self-titled label… SLD Productions. The cover art for his 2008 song “It’s Ruff Out Here” …includes crime scene tape… the term “Vallejo’s finest” …and Darden posing in his official city-issued uniform… while he raps about carrying a gun on the streets of Vallejo.

707 [0:34]: I’m 5-0 and that’s what I do… I grab my badge and I grab my gun…

[fade under]

[scanner traffic]

This has been a production of the Vallejo Sun. It was reported and written by me… Brian Krans… and Scott Morris. Together with reporter and Vallejo native John Glidden… we are the Vallejo Sun… a small yet feisty newsroom covering Vallejo and Solano County.

To help us continue our work… please consider subscribing to the Sun for as little as 50 dollars a year… at Vallejo Sun dot com slash membership.  

[fade]

Thanks for listening.

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