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Family of Black man killed by Vallejo police will receive nearly $6 million

A file photo from 2016 shows Vallejo police officers working at the scene of a police shooting.
Vallejo police work at the scene of a 2016 shooting. A fatal shooting by an officer in 2018 has led to a $5.7-million settlement.
(Chris Preovolos / Associated Press)

The city of Vallejo has agreed to pay $5.7 million to the family of a Black man who was shot and killed by a Vallejo police officer in 2018, city officials announced.

Ronell Foster, 33, was riding a bike in downtown Vallejo without a headlamp the evening of Feb. 13, 2018, when he was spotted and pursued by Officer Ryan McMahon, who later told investigators that he stopped Foster to “educate the public on the dangers that this person was creating for himself and the traffic on Sonoma Boulevard,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

After a brief pursuit, McMahon said, Foster grabbed his metal flashlight and tried to strike him during a physical altercation, prompting McMahon to open fire. Foster died at the scene after being shot in the back of the head.

McMahon was cleared of wrongdoing in January by the Solano County district attorney’s office, which declared McMahon’s deadly use of force justified after an investigation that included body camera footage.

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But Foster’s family brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against McMahon and the city.

A lawyer representing the family of a 22-year-old man killed by a Vallejo police officer called the shooting “pretty outrageous.”

The city itself will pay the Foster family only $500,000. The rest will be paid by the California Assn. of Joint Powers Authorities, a municipal insurance provider.

The Foster family is “happy the truth has finally come out,” Adanté Pointer, a lawyer for the family, said.

“Ronell did not deserve to die,” Pointer said. “True justice would be to see Officer McMahon walking into court as a criminal defendant.

“What the family found most disturbing are the lies the city put out to justify his death when they knew the whole time Ronell’s death was not justified and the officer’s conduct flat-out wrong.”

Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams indicated his intent to fire McMahon in March, based in part on his conduct during another fatal shooting, that of 21-year old Willie McCoy. The termination is pending, a spokeswoman for the city said.

The Vallejo Police Department has released the names of six officers involved in the fatal shooting of an aspiring rapper in a Taco Bell drive-thru, including one who was involved in the shooting death of another man last year.

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In a March letter to McMahon that was made public, Williams said McMahon endangered the lives of other police officers, neglected basic firearm safety and demonstrated “unsatisfactory work performance including, but not limited to, failure, incompetence,” in connection with the McCoy incident.

McMahon was temporarily placed on paid administrative leave following the fatal shooting of Foster but was later cleared to return to duty. One year later, he was one of six officers who shot and killed McCoy, who was asleep in a car in a Taco Bell drive-through lane.

Vallejo police spokeswoman Brittany Jackson declined to provide details about McMahon’s leave, calling it a “pending personnel matter.” McMahon was paid $219,433 in salary and benefits in 2018, the year he shot Foster, according to public records.

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In Los Angeles County, sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a Black man they had tried to stop while riding his bike last week. Dijon Kizzee was riding a bicycle in violation of vehicle codes, according to Lt. Brandon Dean. Dean said he didn’t know which codes Kizzee was allegedly violating.

Deputies said they attempted to contact Kizzee, but he dropped the bicycle and ran. When officials again tried to make contact, Kizzee punched one of them in the face, Dean said.

Kizzee then dropped a jacket he had been carrying, and a black handgun fell to the ground, officials said. The Sheriff’s Department said that Kizzee “made a motion toward” the gun, and deputies opened fire, killing him.

Since Kizzee’s Aug. 31 death, nightly protests have roiled South L.A., with demonstrators and law enforcement facing off in clashes that have progressively escalated.

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Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.


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