Last week, the San Diego Police Department provided to the media a six-page letter from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis summarizing her office's review of the shooting death of 25-year-old Jacob Faust. According to the letter, Jacob was shot by San Diego police officer Stephen Holliday at 1:45 a.m. on April 4, 2005, 20 minutes after being pulled over for making an illegal left turn downtown. Holliday told investigators Jacob pulled a gun on officer Brian Keaton, for whom Holliday was providing back up. The gun found in Jacob's van ended up being a toy.
Jacob's family wasn't given a copy of the DA's letter; his mom, Lynne Faust, received a phone call a week before the letter was released, informing her that the DA found the shooting justified, but when it came to getting a copy of the letter, she had to call the DA's office and ask for one. Even then, the investigator she talked to had to first get permission to send her a copy of the letter. Lynne said she was told it was something that wasn't usually done.
The letter, dated Nov. 7, arrived in the mail this past Monday.
Since Jacob's death on April 4, Lynne and Rick Faust and their two daughters have struggled to get information about what exactly happened that night. They agree Jacob had issues with the police stemming from how he'd been treated during an arrest and how friends of his had been treated, his mom said. Jacob was a self-taught musician, artist and puppeteer who loved to swing dance and who worked as a church janitor. He had a large group of friends, evident by a near-capacity crowd that turned up at the Casbah nightclub in May for a tribute concert. He could be a wise guy, his friends have said, but was never prone to violence.
The Fausts say they want to see a full copy of the police investigation of the shooting, including statements by all witnesses interviewed by police. That information, however, is exempt from disclosure under California's public-records law. Through an attorney, the Fausts have been able to see portions of the investigation-enough to leave them with even more questions. The only way the full police investigation would be made public is if the Fausts decide to go ahead with a wrongful-death lawsuit, something Lynne said they can't afford right now. The family recently moved to Normal Heights, unable to stay in their downtown condo located only a couple of blocks from where Jacob was shot. The expense of moving was compounded by the fact that Rick Faust recently underwent spinal surgery.
CityBeat asked the DA's office for copies of whatever information went into generating the summary letter, but was told that information, too, is exempt from disclosure.
According to the letter, officer Brian Keaton stopped Jacob around 1:20 a.m. When Holliday drove by 10 minutes later, Keaton asked him for assistance, saying, according to the letter, that Jacob was "being a jerk." Since he was driving on a suspended license, Keaton told Holliday he feared Jacob would become angry when informed his vehicle would be impounded.
According to the letter, Holliday shined a flashlight into the van and saw what he thought was a gun in the back pocket of the passenger seat. Jacob, according to the officers, had his car stereo turned up, though turned it down slightly when asked. The DA's letter doesn't say so, but Lynne Faust has found out that the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" was the song Jacob, who had an affinity for older tunes, was playing.
Keaton told investigators that because of the music, he couldn't hear Holliday yell, "I think there's a gun in the car." Regardless, Keaton attempted to pull Jacob out of the vehicle. According to the letter, Jacob resisted, telling Keaton he had no right to forcibly remove him from the car. At that point, Holliday was standing behind Jacob with his weapon drawn and pointing through the van's rear side window, which Lynne says was broken and only went down part of the way. Holliday yelled, "I think you have a gun. You need to get out of the car." Keaton said he heard Jacob reply that the gun was a toy. He told investigators he "believed Mr. Faust was reaching for something behind the seat." Keaton pepper-sprayed Jacob and said he then saw the young man holding a "shiny object" in his right hand.
Holliday said he saw Jacob reach back and pull the gun from the seat pocket, at which point he fired three shots striking him in the neck, left arm and back. The latter shot afflicted the most damage, perforating Jacob's lungs and heart.
The DA's letter says police investigators found only one latent fingerprint on the gun that, according to the report, "lacked sufficient clarity to establish a match."
Based on that information, "I find it really difficult to believe that he was handling it at all," Lynne told CityBeat.
Lynne Faust said she'd hoped the DA's letter would address questions she has about bullet trajectories. The autopsy report found that the two bullets striking Jacob in the arm and neck traveled left to right while the bullet that struck him on the right side of his back was traveling right to left and at an upward angle, exiting through his heart. Holliday was standing behind Jacob and to his left.
Also missing from the DA's letter is any reference to a witness statement obtained by a police investigator from Patrick Sheehy, a producer at the local Fox TV station. Sheehy was with Jacob 20 minutes before he was stopped by police. Sheehy's account contradicts that of other witnesses referenced in the DA's letter who said Faust seemed impaired or intoxicated. Sheehy said he saw Jacob come into the Live Wire bar in North Park to put up a flier for an upcoming show by his band, the Carnie Barkers. Sheehy called him over and said Jacob drank only one beer before the two left together around 1 a.m.
"In no way, shape or form was he impaired," Sheehy told CityBeat.
Another witness statement in the DA's letter said Jacob "appeared dirty... like he hadn't showered in days." When asked about this, Sheehy said that simply wasn't the case.
A DA spokesperson said Sheehy's statement wasn't included in the summary because he "was not a witness to the shooting or a witness to Faust's actions right before the shooting or a witness to Faust's sobriety." Sheehy has said that the latter point is what he was questioned about.
The Fausts are also still waiting to have items removed from Jacob's van returned to them. An artist's satchel Jacob always had with him, several notebook journals, his wallet and clothes were retained as evidence. Also missing is a cassette tape from a recorder Jacob carried with him. Jacob's sister found the empty recorder on the driver's side floorboard when the family went to pick up the van.
A police lieutenant contacted by CityBeat on Tuesday said that the person who'd be able to say when those items would be released to the Fausts was out until next week.Lynne said she's considered stopping by the police station herself. "Sometimes when I'm in the area, you know, I just feel like going in there and saying, "Could I please have his stuff?'" she said. "I don't know why they wouldn't give it to me, but then I don't know why they've done anything up to this point."