The independent consultant chosen to investigate the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County Deputy is the same expert who testified that BART police officer Johannes Mehserle accidentally shot Oscar Grant. Coincidence?
Now, as SFGate reports, it’s coming to light that this police psychology expert, William Lewinski, has a history of siding with cops.
Earlier this week, the Sonoma County District Attorney announced it would not charge Deputy Erick Gelhaus with the death of Lopez, a Santa Rosa teen who was carrying a replica AK-47 toy gun.
Sonoma County DA Jill Ravitch handpicked Lewinski, who found in a 14-page report that Gelhaus had reason to feel threatened — even though Lopez never pointed the toy gun at him — and his decision to fire seven times was prompted by “an action/reaction paradigm.” Lewinski only interviewed Gelhaus for his report.
In the case of the Oscar Grant shooting, Lewinski only interviewed Mehserle. As you likely already know, Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, claiming that he thought he was reaching for and firing his Taser. During the trial, The Bay Citizen reported that video footage showed Mehserle looking at his gun, which was black, and his Taser, which was bright yellow, before drawing the gun. Lewinski testified that in stressful situations, it is more likely a police officer would accidentally confuse a gun and Taser. Mehserle was acquitted of murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Depending on who you ask, Lewinski pioneered or invented the study of police psychology, after he earned a doctorate from online classes at Union Institute. He founded a research center called the Force Science Institute at the University of Minnesota at Mankato, where he also taught classes. When asked in the past about what he charges as an expert witness, Lewinski would only say his payments include $475 an hour fee that goes to his institute.
Among Lewinski’s 75 cases in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, he used the shoot-first doctrine to successfully defend a Los Angeles Police Department officer who shot and killed a man at a Halloween party who pulled out a toy gun.
Two sources in the SFGate article call Lewinski a fraud. Oakland attorney Michael Haddad, the president of the National Police Accountability Project, says: "He's an opportunist who will say whatever is expedient to get the cop off, so why in the world would any reputable district attorney's office rely on someone like him?" Pasadena attorney John C. Burton says Lewinski is “an uncredentialed police expert who will say whatever they need to justify the situation."
As for Ravitch, when contacted by SFGate, she responded by listing his academic credentials.