District Attorney: Watkins Was Exercising His Rights

District Attorney: Watkins Was Exercising His Rights

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will not pursue a resisting arrest charge against Mali Watkins, according to a letter sent to Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri on July 10.

In the letter, which was released to the public on July 16, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley stated the responding officers “did not have sufficient probable cause to detain him, making the citation null and void.” Watkins, 44, was detained and given a citation for resisting arrest by Alameda Police Department (APD) officers after he was dancing on the street in front of his residence on May 23. O’Malley went on to write that Watkins “should have been free to leave if he did not want to engage in a consensual contact” with the responding officers.

O’Malley stated her office also investigated the two responding officers, Harris Smiler and Anthony Buck, to determine if charges should be filed against them for their handling of Watkins’ detainment.

“Based on the totality of circumstances, no criminal charges will be filed against Officer [Smiler] and Officer Buck,” wrote O’Malley.

However, O’Malley said she believed the officers needed more training, especially regarding consensual contact procedures.

“These officers require training regarding contacts, detentions, citations and arrests of individuals,” wrote O’Malley. “I am offering one of my experienced Assistant District Attorneys to provide training to your officers, particularly related to detentions and consensual contacts to prevent any similar events from occurring in the future.”

Buck started on-the-job field training late last year after graduating from Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Academy in November 2019, according to the APD Facebook page.

The District Attorney’s Office’s investigation is separate from the City of Alameda’s investigation. The City of Alameda hired Pasadena-based attorney Alfonso Estrada on July 2 to conduct an independent investigation of the incident (“City Hires Independent Investigator” July 7). Estrada is a partner with Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo in Pasadena.

He has conducted investigations for multiple public agencies including the Beverly Hills police and fire departments, the Alhambra Police Department and the Fresno Fire Department. Smiler and Buck have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation. The investigation, and any report generated from the investigation, remain confidential by California State law.

Watkins was detained by APD officers on May 23 around 7:45 a.m. A woman reported to a APD dispatcher she was concerned about his mental well-being.

Officers approached Watkins who told officers he was exercising across the street from his home. When he tried to walk away the officers physically detained Watkins who was unarmed. During the arrest, five police officers took a handcuffed Watkins to the pavement.