General Crime

Defense Says Mental State is Key For Man Who Shot Oakland Police Officer

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A prosecutor and a defense attorney agreed today that 32-year-old Nathaniel Cook shot and injured a police officer, shot at another man and engaged in other dangerous activity in East Oakland two years ago but disagreed about his mental state at the time. Prosecutor Patrick Moriarty told jurors in his opening statement in Cook’s trial on six felony counts that Cook “knew exactly what he was doing” when he stole a man’s bicycle, shot at a second man who tried to stop him, shot and wounded Oakland police Officer D’Vour Thurston and pointed his gun at another man.

Pointing his finger at Cook, who he alleged was armed with a semi-automatic firearm, Moriarty said, “There should be no doubt as to this is the guy and that’s what he did.” The incident in the area of 48th Avenue and East 12th Street started at about 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2013, and only lasted for three minutes, Moriarty said. It was captured by security cameras at multiple businesses in the area and the prosecutor played videos of it for jurors today. Cook’s lawyer, Barbara Thomas, admitted that the case “is not a whodunit” and said the defense won’t argue that “somebody else did it.” But Thomas asked jurors to “look for indications to let you know about the mental element of Mr. Cook” and said she believes there’s evidence that he’s mentally troubled. Thomas also said she believes Cook was scared when he fired at Thurston and the man who tried to stop him after he stole the bicycle. “The evidence will show that the reason Mr. Cook is running is that he is in fear and wants to get away,” Thomas said.

She told jurors, “Attempted murder requires intent to kill, not when you’re afraid for your life.” Moriarty said the incident began when Cook “forcibly ripped” a bicycle from a man who was traveling on a sidewalk on 48th Avenue. Cook rode away on the man’s bicycle but a second man who was a friend of the victim tried to stop him, the prosecutor said. Cook fired several shots at the second man but missed him, according to Moriarty. Cook then dropped the bike and fled on foot, he said. Thurston and another police officer, Rochord Holton, were in the vicinity to investigate a hit-and-run accident when they responded to the scene, in separate patrol cars, where they heard the gunshots, Moriarty said.

Thurston was the first to arrive and he wound up “in a dangerous spot” because he couldn’t see Cook but Cook could see him, Moriarty said. Cook fired at least two shots at Thurston and one shot struck Thurston in his left thigh, according to the prosecutor. Cook continued to run away and pointed his gun at a man who was in his car on his way to his job as a taxicab dispatcher, Moriarty said. Holton then came near Cook and shot at him three times but missed, he said. Cook then put his hands up and surrendered, according to Moriarty.

Thomas said she doesn’t think Cook was trying to kill Thurston because he fired at the lower part of the officer’s body, not his center body mass. And she said she also doesn’t think he was trying to injure the man who tried to stop him after he stole the bicycle because he was only 15 feet away from the man when he opened fire but he missed the man. Moriarty said Thurston “tried to do the right job and got shot” when he tried to arrest Thomas. Moriarty said Thomas “has recovered buy he’s not the same physically.” Thurston, 43, testified today that he retired shortly after the incident. He said he grew up in Oakland, graduated from El Cerrito High School and California State University, East Bay and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989 to 1993.

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