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Three California men charged in shooting death of former police officer who was protecting a news crew

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OAKLAND, CA – When California’s plague of smash-and-grab crimes turned deadly in November, the progressive attitude that they are victimless crimes was shown to be terribly false.

They are not victimless crimes for the store owners, who see their livelihoods being drained of cash and property. Nor for the customers, who are threatened with violence and terrorized by thugs with weapons they aren’t legally allowed to possess.

And certainly not for Kevin Nishita, a former police officer who was shot and killed by criminals while he was protecting a news crew that was reporting on a smash-and-grab crime.

On March 17, the Oakland Police Department announced that three men identified as gang members have been charged with murder in the Nov. 24 shooting of Nishita. The former San Jose police officer was shot in the abdomen as the suspects attempted to rob the KRON TV news team of its camera equipment. He died three days later in a hospital.

In announcing the charges, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told reporters:

“Obviously this has been a very difficult time. He is loved by those who knew him. Nothing brings back your loved one, but people can feel some sense of justice with these arrests.”

The three men, Laron Marques Gilbert, Hershel Hale and Shadihia Mitchell have been charged with murder, attempted robbery and assault with a firearm, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said, noting that Hale and Mitchell are in custody and Gilbert is at large. The two men are currently in the Alameda County Jail.

Three California men charged in shooting death of former police officer who was protecting a news crew
From left, Laron Gilbert, Shadihia Mitchell and Hershel Hale. Courtesy Oakland Police Department

Gilbert was arrested on an unrelated parole violation in December but was released. Authorities said at the time that there was not enough information to charge Gilbert with Nishita’s death.

Armstrong appealed to the public for assistance in locating Gilbert, saying:

“Today we need the public’s help locating the third suspect, Laron Gilbert, who is not [in] custody. He is responsible for this homicide as well. We consider this person to be dangerous.”

An Oakland police detective told KRON TV that Gilbert, Hale and Mitchell are members of a San Francisco street gang. During the press conference, Chief Armstrong declined to reveal which gang was involved, noting, “we try to not bring any attention to these gangs.”

All three men have previous felony records, including shootings, assault of a peace officer or firefighter and illegal firearms possession, KTVU reported.

Hale was arrested Feb. 9 at the San Francisco County Jail, where he was already behind bars for an unrelated crime. Mitchell was arrested by U.S. Marshals in San Francisco on March 16. Mitchell is allegedly the one who pulled the trigger on Nishita.

Nishita worked as an officer in San Jose, Hayward and Colma and for the Oakland Housing Authority. After retiring in 2012, he worked for Star Security, protecting Bay Area television news crews, which have been targeted in armed robberies.

Nishita left behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren.

His wife, Gina Nishita, accepted a citation of courage earlier this month from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation. In accepting the award for her husband, she said:

“Kevin went above and beyond as a security guard for the Bay Area news crews. He developed true friendships with the teams of the newscasters of each network.

“For example, we went on vacation, he bought multiple umbrellas and I asked him, ‘why did you buy so many?’ And his response was, so that when they film outside, and it was raining, that he could protect the news crews from the elements. Another time, Kevin drove two hours outside of his way to make sure that the news reporter would reach her home safely that night.”

KRON-TV’s vice president and general manager, Jim Rose, said after the shooting in November:

“We are devastated by the loss of security guard and our friend, Kevin Nishita. Our deepest sympathy goes to Kevin’s wife, his children, his family, and to all his friends and colleagues.”

Chief Armstrong said last week:

“Obviously this has been a very difficult time. He is loved by those who knew him. Nothing brings back your loved one, but people can feel some sense of justice with these arrests.” 

Law enforcement professionals and retailers point to California’s Proposition 47 for the increase in crimes, which reduced shoplifting charges from a felony to a misdemeanor for thefts of $950 or less. The initiative was pushed by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who was the San Francisco district attorney at the time Prop 47 became law in 2014.

Three California men charged in shooting death of former police officer who was protecting a news crew
Retired Officer Kevin Nishita. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

Steve Reed, a retired police officer and the former head of security at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, told ABC 10:

“I think what happens now is there’s no accountability for it anymore, and the liability for the stores if they try to apprehend these guys. They just stand by and watch.” 

According to Ballotpedia, state legislators in 2018 passed a temporary law to address complaints surrounding Prop 47, which established a new crime of organized retail theft. However, the law has since expired.

Democrat Assemblymember Rudy Salas has introduced a bill that would reduce the dollar amount from $950 to $400 for petty theft to be considered a felony. If passed by the state legislature, it would be placed on the ballot and voted on by the public. Salas said:

“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities. We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop. 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again.”

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