OAKLAND -- The Oakland school district's police force is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, district spokesman Troy Flint said on Monday.
The nature of the inquiry was not stated in the letter the district received late last week from the U.S. Department of Justice, Flint said, but he said it would be "reasonable" to speculate that the probe is connected to at least one of the high-profile controversies in the force in 2011.
In January 2011, as he and another officer, Jonathan Bellusa, were patrolling the street outside of a high school dance, Oakland schools police Sgt. Barhin Bhatt fatally shot 20-year-old Raheim Brown, a nonstudent who was parked along the road with the hazard lights on. Bhatt said he began shooting when he saw Brown stabbing Bellusa with a screwdriver, and that he didn't learn the car had been reported stolen until afterward. A female passenger witnessed the shooting and denies the stabbing occurred.
For months, Brown's mother, Lori Davis, came to school board meetings with graphic photos of her son's bullet wounds, demanding answers. Late last year, Brown's parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
In May, the Oakland school district's general counsel said an internal affairs investigation conducted by a consultant retained by the district concluded "there is no basis for determination that any district policies, practices and regulations have been violated in this
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges.
Last August, another scandal broke when the district's then-police chief, Peter Sarna, was placed on administrative leave after an investigation into a complaint that he directed racial slurs at one of his African-American officers on the way home from a charity event in July.
The two controversies converged when the district administration tapped Bhatt to temporarily take the helm of the police force. After a public outcry, Lt. James Williams, an Oakland resident on loan from the Oakland Housing Authority, was put in charge, as interim chief.
Flint said that to his knowledge, the Department of Justice has only announced its intent to request documents from the small police agency, but that it hadn't requested anything in particular.
"We're still in the dark about the impetus for the investigation," Flint said. "But we have nothing to hide, and we'll provide whatever information the federal government requests."