The Napa County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released hours of footage from a Jan. 11 police shooting in Vallejo in response to Open Vallejo’s pressure on the agency to disclose the public records. 

One video captures the minutes shortly after Ofc. Joshua Coleman shot 18-year-old Rogers Vaughn in a North Vallejo neighborhood following a high-speed chase. But the disclosure does not include body-worn camera footage showing the foot chase or shooting itself because Coleman’s “camera battery had run out of charge,” according to Napa Sheriff’s Capt. Brian Kenner. 

Coleman, a former Vallejo police officer with four prior shootings, is employed by the American Canyon Police Department, which contracts with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office for police services. In March 2022, Coleman admitted under oath that he was among a group of officers who bend the tips of their star-shaped badges to commemorate shootings. Open Vallejo uncovered both the ritual and Coleman’s participation in a July 2020 investigation. 

Coleman’s camera battery died as he was wrapping up his shift as a School Resource Officer that day, said Henry Wofford, public information officer for the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. The officer did not have time to return to the station to recharge it before responding to assist with a pursuit, according to Wofford, who called the timing “unfortunate.” 

“He was not anticipating obviously the situation that arose,” Wofford said. 

Dash camera footage from Coleman’s car shows him closely following behind Sheriff’s Deputy Cassie Fallon as they pursue a sedan through residential streets. The chase reached 90 mph, and when the fleeing vehicle blew a tire and rolled into a fence, the driver and passenger bailed on foot. Coleman sprinted after Vaughn, yelling, “Hands up, hands up,” the footage shows. He fired two shots 25 seconds later. 

Shortly after the shooting, Coleman borrowed Fallon’s body camera, which captured roughly five minutes of Coleman giving first aid to Vaughn. 

“I’m going to save your life. I got you,” Coleman said to Vaughn. “I thought you were trying to pull that gun out on me.” 

The bleeding teen disputes that allegation and begs the officer not to let him die, the video shows. 

“I just want to see my mom,” he said. 

The footage shows Coleman wrapping a bandage around the victim’s arm as other officers and paramedics arrive on scene. He then stepped away to give a statement to other officers, telling them that Vaughn was “reaching both of his hands in his jacket” while running. 

“Gun comes out of his pocket. He keeps running this way. Another gun comes out. I fire two shots in that direction,” Coleman said. 

Coleman did not respond to a request for comment. He has since been cleared to return to work, Wofford said.

Vaughn, who survived his injuries, last month pleaded no contest to carrying a loaded firearm not registered to him, a felony, and to obstructing a police officer, a misdemeanor, court records show. 

Other footage disclosed by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office shows officers and deputies kicking down a wood fence and arresting Jozan Amarion Hill, the 18-year-old driver, who they found kneeling in a backyard with his hands raised above his head. Hill told officers he did not have a gun and asked: “Did y’all shoot my brother?” 

Another 30-minute video shows two detectives interviewing Hill, who told them he fled officers because he was panicking and “didn’t know what to do.” 

American Canyon police officers initiated the traffic stop for a vehicle code violation and gave chase when Hill failed to stop, Wofford said. 

Law enforcement officers recovered three guns — one allegedly possessed by Hill and two possessed by Vaughn — following a search of the area. 

On Tuesday, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office released five body camera videos of deputies canvassing the North Vallejo neighborhood for evidence. Four are less than two minutes long; the longest is about five minutes.

The push for public records

In a message accompanying the Wednesday disclosure, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office said the Solano County District Attorney’s Office possesses additional footage from the incident “which captures the foot pursuit and the subsequent shooting.” 

The Solano County District Attorney’s Office, which investigated the shooting through the agency’s Major Crimes Task Force, has not disclosed any shooting records to this newsroom. 

Solano County Chief Deputy District Attorney Paul Sequeira wrote in a Jan. 22 letter that the agency had already forwarded the criminal investigation to the Napa County District Attorney’s Office. Solano County District Attorney spokesperson Monica Martinez reiterated in an email Thursday that her agency turned over the records to an investigator there.

In an email Thursday afternoon, Napa County Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero said that Solano County had turned over the video footage but not investigative reports, delaying his agency’s review of the case. Napa County typically completes post-shooting reviews within 90 days, Gero said. The agency has not disclosed footage to this newsroom.

Open Vallejo filed a public records request for footage of the shooting the day after it occurred. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office closed the request 10 days later, claiming that the records were exempt from disclosure. However, the agency soon re-opened the request and began preparing the release of records after this newsroom successfully argued for their release under a 2019 transparency law, Assembly Bill 748

AB 748 requires agencies to disclose audio or video recordings of a shooting by law enforcement within 45 days unless the release of the materials substantially interferes with an active criminal investigation, “such as by endangering the safety of a witness or a confidential source.” 

In a phone interview on Feb. 29, Napa Deputy County Counsel Silva Darbinian said the situation was “a little unusual,” in that it involved multiple law enforcement agencies over two jurisdictions, which caused initial confusion and delay. 

The district attorneys in Solano and Napa counties both took the position that the records should be withheld. The Napa sheriff’s office followed suit but soon reversed course.

After receiving Open Vallejo’s analysis of AB 748, Darbinian said, the Napa County Counsel’s Office re-opened the matter for a closer look. 

Darbinian told Open Vallejo that upon reviewing this newsroom’s analysis and conducting legal research, she concluded that AB 748 required the disclosure of audiovisual records in the case.

A history of violence

The January shooting occurred roughly two months after Vallejo Police Cpl. Matthew Komoda shot and wounded a 17-year-old, who police say was armed, after several people allegedly robbed a man outside a grocery store and sped away from police in a Lexus. Both the City of Vallejo and the Solano County District Attorney’s Office have declined to disclose footage of the shooting, in part because the case involves a minor.

Komoda admitted to his involvement in badge-bending at the same March 2022 hearing as Coleman.

A night-time scene capturing two men on a rain-soaked street, illuminated by the red and blue lights of a police vehicle. A sheriff's deputy is holding what appears to be a coil of detonation cord, while the another man, a Vallejo police officer, observes the scene. The wet pavement reflects the colorful lights, adding to the dramatic atmosphere.
Joshua Coleman, a member of Napa County Sheriff’s Department Hazardous Devices Team, prepares to detonate a suspicious package on Dec. 12, 2022 in Vallejo, Calif. Credit: Geoffrey King / Open Vallejo

A Vallejo police shooting last June ended a more than three-year period in which no officers from the department discharged a firearm at a person. Before that, Open Vallejo research shows, the members of the department shot someone every four months, on average, from 2000 to 2020. The officer in that shooting has not been accused of bending his badge.  

Coleman was involved in one fatal and three non-fatal shootings while a Vallejo officer, Open Vallejo research shows. In March 2013, he and two other officers fatally shot 42-year-old William Heinze, a white man. Five months later, Coleman shot and wounded Tony Ridgeway. He shot a 23-year-old Black man named Raephelle Kalen Martin, Jr., who survived the shooting, the following July. In October 2016, Coleman and one other officer shot Adam Powell, a 44-year-old Black man who survived his injuries.

In 2020, the California Department of Justice launched an investigation into Vallejo police prompted by the “number and nature” of shootings by officers. The investigation included a three-year collaborative review, which failed. The department is now facing a consent decree and a lawsuit from California Attorney General Rob Bonta that would force it to adopt sweeping reforms, including independent oversight by a new civilian commission.

Rogers Vaughn was previously misidentified in court records as Demarea Vaughn Rogers III. This post has been updated.

Anna Bauman is an investigative reporter with Open Vallejo.

Geoffrey King is the executive editor of Open Vallejo. Prior to founding Open Vallejo, Geoffrey worked as an attorney and journalist focused on free expression, open government, press freedom and privacy. He is a proud native of Vallejo, California.