San Bernardino police shot Robert Adams seven times from behind, autopsy suggests

An image of a hand pointing a gun at a man running toward cars outside a building, with a smaller inset view of him running.
An officer takes aim at a man running toward parked cars and a medical office in a video from a police body camera, shown on television with an inset security camera view of the man running.
(San Bernardino Police Department and KTLA)

Preliminary findings from an independent autopsy suggest that a 23-year-old man who was killed by police in San Bernardino last month was shot seven times from behind.

Robert Adams was shot to death by police on the evening of July 16 after a brief confrontation in a parking lot in the city of San Bernardino. Footage from a security camera and a police officer’s body camera show Adams approaching an unmarked police car, then turning and running between two cars parked against a medical building before being shot.

The autopsy diagram indicates Adams suffered a bullet wound in his back and wounds to his arm, thigh and ankle. None of the bullets had a front-to-back trajectory, meaning he was shot from behind, said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the victim’s family.

“There was no reason for them to shoot this Black man running away from them,” Crump said at a televised news conference Friday.

San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman said last month in a video statement that two uniformed police officers in an unmarked car went to the parking lot behind several West Highland Avenue businesses after hearing from “a citizen informant” that a Black man there was armed with a handgun.

“Why would [they] show up with undercover police officers?” Crump said Friday. “Why wouldn’t [they] show up with an identifiable, marked police vehicle?”

Police body camera and surveillance camera footage released by the department show Adams reaching into his waistband and holding a black object in his right hand as the unmarked police car pulls into the parking lot.

Adams’ mother has said her son was on the phone with her and was holding his cellphone when the police arrived.

Goodman said Adams had a gun in his right hand. A loaded 9-millimeter handgun was recovered from the scene of the shooting, he said.

The security camera footage shows Adams slowly walking toward the police officers’ gray sedan, and then the officers getting out of the car with their guns drawn and pointed at Adams.


The officers “gave Adams verbal commands” as they got out of the car, Goodman said. But audio of the first 30 seconds of the interaction was not recorded by police body cameras, and the nearby security camera did not record any audio.

The videos show Adams turning and running toward two cars in the parking lot. As he runs, he looks back toward the officers over his left shoulder, with what police say was a gun in his right hand.

The police officers thought Adams “intended to use the vehicle as cover to shoot at them,” because the cars were backed against a wall and he had nowhere else to go, Goodman said.

Footage from one officer’s body camera shows him firing at Adams, who died at a local hospital that night.

“I am in pain,” said Tamika King, Adams’ mother, on Friday.

“I won’t see my son walk through that door no more,” she continued. “I won’t see his beautiful smile. I won’t have his love and loyalty that he had for his family no more.”

His family held a funeral for Adams on Saturday morning at Ecclesia Christian Fellowship church in San Bernardino.