An undercover operation is going very, very wrong for local and federal authorities.
OAKLAND, Calif.—"He’s got a trapper."
Officer Eric Karsseboom merely wanted to find a four-door, white Dodge car on the evening of January 21, 2013. Instead, someone else found him. The Oakland Police Department veteran was suddenly facing down the barrels of a trio of guns as three men—Deante Kincaid, Joseph Pennymon, and Damien McDaniel—surrounded his vehicle, an unmarked Chevy Tahoe, in the parking lot of a gated apartment complex at 1759 Seminary Avenue. Located in East Oakland, this was and remains the heart of one of the city's toughest neighborhoods.
Kincaid spotted the trapper, a slang term for a gun, after he and his associates stopped Karsseboom's car for an informal interrogation. Undercover and alone, Karsseboom had crept into the apartment complex behind another vehicle, hoping to find the Dodge that OPD connected to a suspect from a shooting the previous day. Now more gunfire loomed.
As all three men kept their firearms aimed at the undercover officer, McDaniel came in through the unlocked passenger-side door to take Karsseboom's Glock 27. Kincaid then ordered Karsseboom out of the car, requesting that McDaniel search him. The trio next found Karsseboom's service weapon: a Glock 22, holstered.
"Trapper," McDaniel announced.
The policeman refused to hand over the gun, so McDaniel shoved the muzzle of his own firearm directly into the officer's torso hoping to convince Karsseboom otherwise. McDaniel repeatedly tried to take the service weapon from Karsseboom, but the officer continued to resist. Kincaid soon grew tired of the charade. He smacked Karsseboom hard on the head with the muzzle of the gun. Within a few moments, blood began dripping down the side of his head. And during the ensuing struggle, McDaniel shot Karsseboom in the left forearm. When the officer still didn’t give up the gun, the muzzle of Kincaid's gun met the bridge of the officer's nose.
At first, Karsseboom attempted to get his gun out of the holster. But with a bloody left hand, he lost his grip, and McDaniel finally took the gun to hand it to Kincaid. The officer was left with only one final option—he decided to show his hand.
"I'm the police. 5-0. I’m a cop."
Kincaid again put his own gun against the bridge of Karsseboom’s nose. "I don’t care if you’re the police... Where’s your badge at then?"
Karsseboom told him it was in the trunk. Pennyman finally spoke.
"I see you when you made that U-turn in front of the complex," he said. Pennymon struck the officer, and he and Kincaid ran away. But McDaniel hesitated. Because of this, Karsseboom was able to grab the man by the shoulder and toss him to the rear of the vehicle, an attempt to take him into custody. Karsseboom shoved McDaniel into the driver’s seat and managed to take the attacker's gun away, all the while keeping a lookout to see if the other two men returned. However, the officer couldn't secure the situation, and McDaniel spun away, sliding out of his coat to flee.
At this point, the first OPD car arrived. Throughout the entire incident, Karsseboom had kept phone communication with a nearby officer open. Bloodied, Karsseboom briefed the arriving policemen and attempted to move his car onto the street. He felt numb though, and he was quickly transported to Highland Hospital for treatment. The cuts on his head required "13 or 14 stitches."
The OPD soon set up an incident command post about two blocks north of the perimeter, and there were dozens of responders. Officers from other law enforcement agencies included the Oakland Housing Authority Police, California Highway Patrol (which flew in a helicopter from three counties north), BART Police, and others. Even a BearCat armored personnel carrier arrived. OPD launched an immediate investigation and manhunt to track down the three men who badly wounded their colleague.
Within a few days, all three—plus a fourth man allegedly involved—were eventually located. A criminal case, United States vs. Ellis et al, now hangs in the balance. The men are charged with both the attempted murder of a local police officer and for running an alleged East Oakland gang centered around Seminary Avenue (known as "SemCity"). But in the process of locating one of the alleged assailants on that night nearly three years ago, the department may have unintentionally opened up a way for the defendants to challenge evidence in the case. And perhaps worse for the authorities at large, the OPD's actions in the wake of Karsseboom's beating are shedding new light on one of the government's most prized and secretive surveillance tools: the cell phone hunting and intercepting device known as a stingray.