Last July, San Bernardino police shot and killed a 23-year-old Black man as he ran from them while allegedly holding a gun. The police killing of Rob Adams drew protests and demands for accountability — and is the subject of a $100 million lawsuit filed on behalf of his family.
Now, nine months after Adams was killed, San Bernardino city officials have confirmed to KVCR and The California Newsroom the identities of the officers involved: Ofc. Michael Yeun and Sgt. Imran Ahmed.
Advocates for police transparency say state laws make it clear the public has a right to know the circumstances and details when serious force is used — which raises questions about what took so long for the names to be available in this case.
Here's what we now know about what happened
Yeun fired the shots that killed Adams, according to body camera footage released by the San Bernardino Police Department. The footage shows that the shots were fired seconds after the officers arrived in an unmarked car. Both officers were uniformed.
The San Bernardino County coroner's office has not released a report on Adams' death, but an independent autopsy commissioned by the victim's family revealed that he was shot seven times. One shot entered Adams' back, and four entered the backs of his legs, right arm and left shoulder, according to a diagram provided to KVCR and The California Newsroom by Bradley Gage, an attorney who has filed the $100 million federal lawsuit on behalf of the Adams family. Gage said a sixth bullet entered the side of Adams' left leg and a seventh grazed the front of his right thigh. Gage is working as co-counsel with national civil rights attorney Ben Crump; Crump's clients include the families of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols, who were killed by police in Minneapolis and Nashville, respectively.
Sgt. Ahmed, who was holding another man at gunpoint, did not fire his weapon, according to body camera footage.
The officers were responding to a call from a "citizen informant" about a Black man with a gun "in the parking lot of an illegal online gambling business," according to the San Bernardino Police Department. Statements issued by SBPD did not say whether the man had committed a crime before officers received the tip, or did so when they arrived at the scene in the unmarked vehicle. According to an SBPD statement:
"As officers arrived, they spotted two males. One of the males, later identified as 23-year-old Rob Marquise Adams of San Bernardino, pulled a gun from his waistband, and began walking towards the officers' vehicle. The officers exited their vehicle and attempted to give Adams verbal commands, but Adams ran away, towards two cars, still carrying the gun. Officers briefly chased Adams, but seeing that he had no outlet, they believed he intended to use the vehicles as cover to shoot at them. The officer saw Adams look over his left shoulder with the gun still in his right hand. Fearing that bystanders' or the officers' lives were in danger, one of the officers fired his gun, striking Adams."
It is unclear whether Adams knew they were police officers before they exited the vehicle.
Yeun and Ahmed could not be directly reached for comment. Attorneys for the officers either declined to comment or did not respond to calls and emails. SBPD declined to make Yeun or Ahmed available and did not answer a long list of questions sent by email about their work histories and other matters related to this story.
Reaction from the family
When contacted by KVCR and The California Newsroom with information about the officers' identities, Rob Adams' father, Robert Adams, said that he and his family had been unable to learn the names of the officers involved until reached for comment. "To me they're trying to throw everything up under the rug," he said. "We've been trying to get the officers' names. We've been on the city's webpages, social pages — nothing. It's been excuse after excuse."
Gage also expressed frustration with what he believed to be a lack of transparency by SBPD. Like Adams, he had been unable to confirm the officers' identities, despite submitting multiple public records requests, until reached by reporters. "One has to ask, 'Why would the department do that?'" said Gage. "I am confident that as we dive into the backgrounds of these officers, we will find that they were either involved in other questionable shootings, other complaints of excessive force, cover-ups of that force or all three."
Police records obtained by The California Reporting Project, a collaboration of news organizations that has spent years fighting for public records on police misconduct and use of force, show that Gage's concerns may be well-founded.
Yeun had previously chased and shot 15-year-old
Around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2020, Yeun shot an unnamed minor who had fled from a vehicle that SBPD officers pulled over for a traffic violation, according to statements made by officials after the shooting. In body camera footage, Yeun got out of the passenger side of a police vehicle and began chasing the minor through the grounds of an apartment complex where several pedestrians were present. Yeun radioed to fellow officers that the suspect was "still grabbing his waistband." Yeun yelled, "Get on the ground or I'll fuckin' shoot you, dude."
Yeun closed in and yelled, "Get on the ground,'' two more times, according to his bodycam footage. The minor appeared to trip or kneel next to a bush, facing away from Yeun. He then looked over his shoulder toward Yeun, his hand obscured by the bush, when Yeun fired. It is unclear, based on the bodycam footage, whether he was holding a gun at the moment he was shot.
In police files, the minor, who survived, is quoted as saying, "I didn't point my gun at the cop, I was going to throw it in the bushes."
The minor "suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including to the lower back, leg, and arm," according to a civil suit filed by his family in U.S. District Court against the city of San Bernardino, Yeun and nine unnamed officers. Police files confirm the minor was shot three times, and noted that he required surgery to remove a projectile from his back.
Yeun and his fellow officers also "failed to summon medical assistance" as the minor "lay bleeding on the ground," according to the lawsuit. Police dispatch audio shows that medical assistance did not arrive for at least 15 minutes. Yeun's bodycam footage shows several other officers arriving at the scene moments after the shooting. The minor was turned onto his stomach and handcuffed. Two officers can be seen wearing or putting on latex gloves, but the redacted video makes it unclear whether they were providing aid.
The case has been investigated by SBPD and is now under review with the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
Dale Galipo, attorney for the minor, did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
We're tired of having to use taxpayer money for police misconduct. It feels like we're just bleeding dry. It's clear to me we haven't done enough internally to weed out the bad apples.
The case was settled in March 2023, for $500,000.
"We're tired of having to use taxpayer money for police misconduct. It feels like we're just bleeding dry," said San Bernardino City Council member Ben Reynoso. "It's clear to me we haven't done enough internally to weed out the bad apples."
Yeun has been with SBPD since 2015, according to data available from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST. On the Dec. 7, 2021, episode of the department's podcast, San Bernardino PD Briefing Room, Yeun told the hosts he'd been with the elite SWAT team for almost three years.
Ahmed has a history of use of force and lawsuits
In 2009, six months after Ahmed joined the San Bernardino Police Department, he and at least one other officer responded to a call from a woman experiencing mental illness. She alleged her husband, who is Black, was verbally, although not physically, abusing her, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit the man filed against Ahmed, other SBPD officers and the city of San Bernardino. The suit claims that police denied the woman a ride to the hospital for her "mental condition." Court documents say that moments later, despite following police commands to exit the home, the unarmed husband was thrown to the ground by Ahmed and another officer and beaten "with closed fists about the head, face, chest, back and applied pressure by knees to (his) elbow, legs and back."
The incident was among no fewer than seven federal lawsuits in which Ahmed has been named as a defendant for numerous allegations, including assault, battery, conspiracy to violate civil rights, denial of medical care, excessive force, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, racial bias and unreasonable search and seizure, according to court records.
Details of allegations in the other federal lawsuits in which Ahmed has been a defendant include:
- Supervising and participating in the beating of a man who had run from police but was face down on the ground following orders, and later pressuring the suspect to lie about how he sustained his injuries, which required surgery. Police files reviewed by KVCR and The California Newsroom do not indicate the man had a weapon.
- Pulling his patrol car over and beating a recently arrested suspect, who was handcuffed in the back seat.
- Tasering and beating a suspect who had fled on foot during a traffic stop and hidden in a trash can. As a result of the beating, the suspect suffered "multiple fractures to his face and right hand, as well as bruising, taser burns, and lacerations" and had to undergo facial surgery.
- Participating in the beating of a car-theft suspect who claims to have not been resisting. The lawsuit alleges that officers dislocated his elbow, kicked him in the back and dragged his face across a driveway.
Five cases were settled, costing the city of San Bernardino $539,000. Two cases are still open.
Ahmed joined the department after four years with the nearby Upland Police Department, according to data available from POST. Appearing on the same 2021 podcast episode as Yeun, Ahmed told the hosts that he had been a member of SWAT for nine years and was in his second year as "one of the team leaders." Previously, Ahmed was with the gang unit, and worked as an officer, a robbery detective and a field trainer, he said.
In addition to being named as a defendant in the federal lawsuits, Ahmed has been the subject of no fewer than nine use-of-force incidents since 2016, according to records obtained by The California Reporting Project. The use-of-force cases include three officer-involved shootings, which were ruled as justified.
All of the non-shooting incidents released to CPR involving Ahmed include suspects being beaten, having their bones broken and sometimes landing in the hospital, requiring surgery.
Former law enforcement officers and legal experts are quick to point out that looking at the number of use-of-force cases and lawsuits alone sometimes misses the nuance needed to assess an officer's record.
"Intuitively it sounds like a lot," said Greg Meyer, a retired captain with the Los Angeles Police Department who now works as an expert witness. "But it depends on what assignment the person has and what part of town: high crime area, dealing with gang members, etcetera." Ahmed has spent significant time working as a gang officer, according to officer-involved-shooting investigation interviews and witness testimony he has given.
Meyer said that in addition to risks posed by an officer's assignments, it's crucial to understand how one officer's use-of-force history compares to others in the department who performed similar roles.
Richard Drooyan, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission and court-appointed monitor for L.A. County jails, which are staffed by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, agreed. "You're always going to have some officers who are going to accumulate more of these instances," he said.
"Nevertheless," he continued, when told about the number of lawsuits against, and use-of-force cases involving, Ahmed, "I think that the number you're talking about seems to be very, very high. I don't recall experiencing that — in my review of the Los Angeles Police Department or the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department — where a particular officer or officers [have] accumulated that number of complaints."
Those numbers are also concerning to local advocates and community members. Mary Texeira, sociology professor at California State University, San Bernardino, has helped facilitate conversations with students, faculty and residents in the region around race and policing over the last three years.
"If you go into a community and you act like a storm trooper, that just doesn't work," said Texeira. "You cannot be an enemy in a community that you're supposedly protecting and serving."
Why police transparency matters
After Yeun shot and killed Rob Adams, San Bernardino city officials spent months concealing his and Ahmed's names. In response to multiple public records requests, they cited privacy concerns and an ongoing investigation. That's despite a 2014 California Supreme Court decision that found that, with limited exceptions, "the balance tips strongly in favor of identity disclosure and against the personal privacy interests of the officers involved."
Peter Bibring, senior counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, noted two California laws, SB 1421 and SB 16, which were written to increase police transparency. "The Legislature has been very clear that absent a very strong reason to withhold information, the public has a right to know about serious uses of force."
Knowing officers' identities, he said, helps the public "understand how officers use the power we give them to employ deadly force and to understand how departments deal with and manage issues around force."
It also provides a clearer picture for departments — and the public — of possible patterns of misconduct.
"When you hide the individual identity of an officer, you lose that element of accountability that connects this incident potentially to other incidents," said Seth Stoughton, law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former officer with the Tallahassee Police Department.
News release sent Dec. 23, recipients unclear
SBPD spokesperson Lt. Jennifer Kohrell disputed the idea that the department has not been forthcoming with Yeun's and Ahmed's names. "We made it public," she said. Kohrell then forwarded an email she claims to have sent to media contacts going into the Christmas weekend, time-stamped Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, at 8:50 p.m. The email's subject line, "Press Release Update," did not mention the Adams shooting. Yeun's and Ahmed's names were at the bottom of the attached PDF, with no specific details about who shot Adams. Kohrell refused to provide a list of who received the email.
"Sending an email the Friday before Christmas in the dark of night — that is not public disclosure," said Bibring. "Giving it to a small handful of people is not releasing it to the public."
The press release included links to Yeun's and Ahmed's body camera footage, which were both posted to YouTube the same night. Titles and descriptions of the footage did not indicate that the videos were related to the Adams shooting. The footage was heavily redacted and did not reveal their full names.
It starts to look like every single one of those steps is probably an intentional effort to minimize the access to information rather than facilitate the access to information. And that's not the way this government is supposed to work.
It is still unclear whether Yeun's or Ahmed's names were ever put online. From the time of the shooting until as recently as April 24, the updated press release could not be found on the city's website. When questioned, Kohrell said, "I think we did," but added that "some things got lost" due to technical issues "and that [press] release might have been one of them." When asked to provide a definitive answer, Kohrell refused. "I'm not going to jump through hoops for you," she said.
"It starts to look like every single one of those steps is probably an intentional effort to minimize the access to information rather than facilitate the access to information," said Stoughton. "And that's not the way this government is supposed to work."
Stoughton said that releasing an officer's name within 72 hours — or up to a few weeks after — an incident is standard across most police departments. "I would have a hard time justifying their delay," he said.
Councilmember Reynoso said he — like Rob Adams' family and the family's attorneys — was unaware of Yeun's and Ahmed's identities, or their use-of-force histories, until reached for comment." As a council, we've faced the same walls as you have, as reporters," he said.
Reynoso added that a lack of transparency "cements distrust" in the police among community members. "The community has a right to know who is policing them," he said. "When an officer is on the street, armed, in a patrol car, I want to know if they have a record."
This story was produced by The California Newsroom, a collaboration of public radio stations, and The California Reporting Project, a coalition of 40 news organizations across the state. LAist is a member of both.
Bella Arnold of Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism's Investigative Reporting Program, Leila Barghouty of Stanford Journalism's Big Local News and Lisa Pickoff-White of Big Local News and KQED contributed to this report. Former KVCR reporter Jonathan Linden also contributed reporting.
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