Suspected pizza delivery driver robber killed in police sting

June 15, 2003

RICHMOND, Calif. -- A man suspected of robbing pizza delivery drivers was shot and killed on the night of June 12 by a Richmond police officer posing as a pizzeria worker.

According to the Contra Costa Times, a local pizzeria got a suspicious call for a delivery order and called police. Officers set up a decoy with one officer in an unmarked car posing as a pizza delivery driver.

About 10:50 p.m., the officer drove to the delivery destination, exited the car carrying two pizzas, and was approached by a man wearing dark clothing and a hooded sweatshirt. The man stopped the officer, produced a handgun and demanded cash, according to the report.

The officer dropped the pizzas, pulled his handgun and fired on the suspect. A backup officer also fired.

Sixteen-year-old Robert Freeman III was pronounced dead at Doctors Medical Center, San Pablo. Police believe he was involved in a string of about a dozen delivery driver robberies. The shooting occurred about a block from his home.

A second Contra Costa Times report revealed that Freeman's gun was a toy, and relatives now are accusing the officers of overreacting to the situation.

"That was excessive force, for a $14 stickup," Freeman's aunt, Donna Manuel, told the Times. "We want answers."

Police have said Freeman's toy gun looked real and have declined to discuss details of the officers' actions, including whether they identified themselves before firing at him.

Aaron Jones, a neighbor who knew Freeman, said he heard six or seven shots, then a pause of perhaps 10 seconds, followed by five more shots.

Family members told the Times Freeman had had some trouble with police, but had not committed any violent acts. They said that his alleged wielding of a toy gun shows he did not intend to hurt anybody.

Topics: Crime

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