A jury in a Contra Costa County coroner’s inquest in Martinez ruled Thursday that an unarmed man killed by Concord police officers while fleeing police in Antioch last year died at the hands of another. The 12-person jury returned the finding on Thursday afternoon after hearing the details surrounding the death of 21-year-old Charles Burns, who was shot multiple times by police officers on May 10, 2013, when they saw him reach for what they thought was a gun.
Burns was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy showed he had been shot 10 times, including in the head and face, according to testimony from a forensic pathologist and police investigators. In Contra Costa County, a coroner’s inquest is held whenever there is an officer-involved death. Jurors in an inquest do not determine civil or criminal liability but are asked to determine whether the person died from natural causes, suicide, accident or were killed by someone else other than by accident.
The night of May 10, 2013, Concord police had set up a surveillance operation and had a search warrant for Burns’ home in the 2700 block of Barcelona Circle in Antioch in connection with drug sales offenses, investigators testified at the inquest. Around 9 p.m., officers saw the 21-year-old leave his house and get into a car driven by his friend, Bobby Lawrence, police said. An officer in an unmarked police minivan attempted to block their path with his vehicle, but Lawrence kept driving, hitting the van and several parked cars, according to police.