VALLEJO – A former Vallejo police officer involved in two fatal shootings had his decision-making abilities questioned after his actions caused a fellow officer to be hurt during a May 2018 pursuit, according to internal Vallejo Police Department records obtained by the Vallejo Sun.
Ryan McMahon — who shot and killed Ronell Foster in February 2018 and was one of six officers who shot and killed Willie McCoy a year later — was flagged for poor performance in connection with seven different incidents in 2018 alone, resulting in him being placed on a performance improvement plan, according to the records.
McMahon was admonished for interviewing suspects without first issuing their Miranda Rights – the rights read to arrested suspects named for the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. He also failed to complete several investigations, including after he was ordered to follow-up on a domestic violence incident in which a victim reported that she had been sexually assaulted, and failed to collect physical evidence from several crimes, according to the improvement plan.
McMahon was eventually fired in October 2020 for endangering another officer’s life when he fired one round from behind Officer Bryan Glick during the February 2019 police killing of McCoy, whom the officers shot 55 times after finding him unresponsive behind the wheel of his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
McMahon also was named as having bent his badge to mark both the Foster and McCoy shootings, a macabre practice that former police Lt. Kent Tribble testified that he brought to the department 20 years ago. The city of Vallejo has refused to release the results of its investigation into the practice, but a judge who reviewed the report said that McMahon was engaged in the practice “enthusiastically” and had gone “off the rails.”
Last year, McMahon was hired by the Broadmoor Police Department, a small police protection district in the community of Broadmoor, which is entirely within Daly City.
Most of the investigations into McMahon’s behavior in Vallejo were conducted by then-Sgt. Sanjay Ramrakha, a department veteran who also bent his badge following a shooting, according to Tribble’s testimony.
Ramrakha cleared McMahon of any policy violations for the Foster shooting, a conclusion department superiors disagreed with. Later, Ramrakha wrote the report in the McCoy shooting that led to McMahon’s termination.
Since then, Ramrakha has been promoted to lieutenant and put in charge of revising the department’s use of force policies.
Ramrakha didn’t return a request for comment.
McMahon’s actions led fellow officer to be injured
McMahon shot and killed Foster on the night of Feb. 13, 2018, following a brief foot pursuit. McMahon tried to stop Foster, 32, for riding his bicycle at night without a light. Foster fled, leaving the bicycle and running into a nearby backyard.
McMahon got out of his police car and chased Foster, cornering him in the backyard. He Tased him and hit him with his flashlight. Then, Foster managed to grab the flashlight, and McMahon, claiming that he feared for his life, shot Foster seven times, including in the back of the head as Foster turned to flee.
Three months later, McMahon was the subject of a counseling memorandum regarding two May 2018 incidents in which McMahon used “a lack of good judgment” for leaving his post as a traffic control unit to join in a separate police chase.
As a traffic control unit, McMahon’s role was to slow, stop and redirect traffic “in order to protect emergency personnel, occupants of involved vehicles, and witnesses,” following a collision.
Without telling anyone, McMahon left his post to join in a vehicle pursuit on the other side of town, a decision that was almost fatal as it caused the officer investigating the collision to “sprint to safety so as to avoid being hit” when a vehicle sped into the investigation scene, according to the memorandum written by Ramrakha.
That officer sustained a back injury “due to the exertion” and went on leave.
The counseling memo also flagged McMahon for using “overly suggestive” language to a witness, jeopardizing a shooting investigation six days after his error with the traffic incident. McMahon told the witness prior to a suspect lineup that “we caught all the guys involved in the shooting,” and that the department seized “lots of guns.” Policy dictates that an officer should instruct a witness “that the perpetrator may or may not be among those presented,” and that the witness is not under any obligation to make an identification.
The witness identified the suspect as being involved in the shooting but, according to Ramrakha, the district attorney’s office was left “with no option but to release (the suspect) on his charges” because of McMahon’s error. Ramrakha said that forensics were being worked on to tie the suspect to the crime.
Ramrakha instructed McMahon to “practice greater awareness of his role when assuming a traffic control position,” while also weighing the necessity of joining in an incident — such as a police pursuit — that “is neither close to his location nor practical to assist with.”
Ramrakha further directed McMahon to “breathe deeply” prior to making a decision when he heard a priority call.
McMahon continued to slip in his job performance
Despite the May 2018 counseling memo, McMahon’s performance continued to slip as the department flagged five more incidents, including three in August 2018, in which he failed to do his duty adequately. He was placed on a 90-day performance improvement plan (PIP) in October 2018.
While responding to a report of restraining order violation, McMahon was caught giving incorrect information to a victim, telling her that she didn’t need to make a police report regarding future restraining order violations “but that they should only document it with a VPD incident number.”
Protocol dictates a new police report be taken for every restraining order violation, according to the PIP report.
McMahon’s lapse in judgment was later found in September 2018 by a Vallejo police employee fulfilling a request during the discovery process of a criminal proceeding, according to emails obtained by the Sun. The employee raised concerns about McMahon’s failure in an email she sent to a police corporal, who then forwarded the email titled “Misinformation given by ofc” to several command-level staff.
The employee wrote that weeks after the interaction with McMahon, the victim called to report a new violation and repeated the information McMahon gave her to a dispatcher. When the dispatcher told the woman that an officer was required to respond, the victim “chose not to document the violation,” the email reads.
Then-Capt. Joseph Iacono responded to the email, directing then-Lt. Fabio Rodriguez to address the incident.
“Fabio, sounds like he [is] not taking these crime reports…against GO’s [general orders],” Iacono wrote. “Please have it addressed.”
Less than two hours after he gave incorrect information to the restraining order victim, McMahon responded to a report of stolen property by conducting “an extensive interview of the suspects outside of [their] Miranda [rights] and while the suspects were detained in handcuffs.”
McMahon conducted the interview in front of the victim and “the victim’s very young child while the suspects were seated in a [nearby restaurant] that was open to the public at the time of the incident,” the report states. The officer was further dinged for writing a substandard report that was ordered rewritten.
The next day, McMahon responded to a report of a stalking case in which the victim awoke to find the stalker in her bed. The victim struggled with the suspect, and when McMahon arrived on scene he took no action during his investigation, even when shown a chair the suspect used to climb through a window to gain entry into the residence. McMahon checked the area and eventually cleared the call with a “general services rendered” disposition “without conducting [a] further and more thorough investigation and documenting the incident by generating a police report,” according to the PIP.
Later, another officer responded and arrested the suspect, and charged the individual “with numerous felonies including stalking, and burglary,” according to the PIP.
A month later, McMahon responded to a domestic incident when the victim told him that she had been forced to orally copulate the suspect and that the suspect had ejaculated on her shirt, leaving DNA evidence.
“You wrote a police report detailing the event but did not request any type of prosecution or follow-up based on that the victim had told you that they did not wish to level charges against the suspect,” the PIP reads.
McMahon was ordered to investigate the crime and obtain the physical evidence.
Finally, in October 2018 while conducting a drunken driving investigation, McMahon was accused of writing a substandard report, “lacking in certain details” and for again not properly reading a suspect their rights. McMahon was accused of detaining the suspect and bringing him to the police station for questioning, all without reading the suspect his Miranda rights.
“After the investigation, you stated that the suspect was now under arrest, even after having brought him to the police station,” the report reads.
The performance improvement plan was in place for 90 days, starting on October 19, 2018, ending on Jan. 18, 2019, three weeks before McMahon and five other Vallejo officers killed McCoy outside a Vallejo Taco Bell.
During the PIP, McMahon was to be evaluated every two weeks, while also being provided with pertinent police department documents, including the department’s general orders, the California Criminal Investigations manual, California penal and vehicle codes, and the Vallejo Police Department’s report writing manual.
Foster and McCoy shootings
McMahon was one of six officers who fired 55 times into a silver Mercedes parked in a Taco Bell drive-thru where McCoy was unresponsive, allegedly with a gun on his lap in February 2019. McMahon arrived just as officers began shooting and fired one round from behind Officer Bryan Glick.
Then-Interim Police Chief Joe Allio ordered an internal investigation into the shooting. That internal investigation conducted by Ramrakha cleared McMahon of unreasonable force but sustained violations of unsafe firearm handling and violations of safe weapons handling because he fired from behind another officer. McMahon was fired in October 2020 for those violations.
During that investigation, Vallejo police learned that McMahon added a plate to his gun with the words “Veritas” and “Aequitas," Latin for “truth” and “justice,” a reference to the 1999 film Boondock Saints, where two brothers engage in vigilante justice by killing men they believe to be evil.
As the department investigated the gun alterations, McMahon was ordered to turned in his badge to then-Capt. John Whitney, who noticed two bent tips. McMahon told Whitney those bends “signified the two people he had killed in the line of duty,” according to a lawsuit later filed on behalf of Whitney. Whitney took it to then-police Chief Andrew Bidou, who said that he would handle it.
Bidou announced his retirement from the department in March 2019. The same month, on March 5, 2019 — less than a month after the McCoy shooting — police Sgt. Jared Jacksch wrote a report that found McMahon acted within policy when he killed Foster a year earlier and that the officer exercised sound tactics that were consistent with department training.
Allio disagreed with Jacksch’s findings, writing in an Oct. 21, 2019, memo that he found violations of the department’s pursuit and body camera policies. McMahon did not turn his camera on until after he killed Foster, but his body camera recorded the previous 30 seconds after being activated, which showed Foster turn away from McMahon before he was shot and killed.
Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams cleared McMahon of any criminal charges in the Foster killing in July 2020, saying he “was justified in using deadly force.” In September 2020, Vallejo agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit, the largest in the city’s history, brought by Foster’s family.
When Shawny Williams became Vallejo’s chief of police in late 2019, he ordered an internal investigation into McMahon’s conduct during his pursuit of Foster. In July 2020, Ramrakha submitted his internal investigation, in which he re-interviewed McMahon, who told him he wanted to stop Foster because he was concerned for his safety.
But Ramrakha found that McMahon did not commit any policy violations. “There is insufficient evidence to support a finding that Officer McMahon failed to consider all relevant factors outlined in the foot pursuit policy constituting a clear violation of the guidelines,” Ramrakha wrote.
Then-Deputy Police Chief Michael Kihmm — who Williams recruited to Vallejo police — reviewed Ramrakha’s investigation into the Foster shooting.
In March 2021, Kihmm wrote a memo to Williams stating that he disagreed with Ramrakha’s conclusion and agreed with Allio that McMahon had violated department’s pursuit and body camera policies.
But by that time, McMahon faced no discipline because he had already been fired.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo Police Department
- Willie McCoy
- Ronell Foster
- Ryan McMahon
- Sanjay Ramrakha
- Miranda v. Arizona
- Bryan Glick
- Kent Tribble
- Badge bending
- Broadmoor Police Department
- Joe Allio
- Shawny Williams
- John Whitney
- Andrew Bidou
- Jared Jaksch
- Krishna Abrams
- Michael Kihmm
John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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