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What really happened to Summer Lane?

by Mary Shelton Sunday, Oct. 02, 2005 at 5:30 PM

The door that the Riverside Police Department had shut on the Officer-Involved Shooting of a woman last year, was blown open by a private investigator hired by the police commission.

With only six months left before the Riverside Police Department severs its ties to the State Attorney General's office, the Community Police Review Commission's investigation of a fatal officer involved shooting has taken a shocking turn.

It began on Dec. 6, sometime after 8pm, when RPD officer Ryan Wilson may have crossed the line, into murder if the information provided at a recent CPRC meeting is indeed factual evidence. If it is not murder, the relevations certainly shook the reticent review board's membership to the core, guaranteeing continued discussion and debate among its membership, and possibly a range war with the police department and its membership down the line.

That night, Wilson was dispatched to respond to a call for service from Food 4 Less inside the mall near Chicago and University. A cashier inside the store had called the police department on their non-emergency business line after refusing to accept what was believed to be the cashing of a payroll check by a man, and his girlfriend, Summer Lane. Her boyfriend was heading out of the store, when he was approached and tackled by a security guard to the floor. Wilson then arrived and the struggle continued between himself and the boyfriend in the parking lot outside the store.

At this point, versions of what transpired next differ depending on the source. One participant, Lane, of course was unable to tell her side.

The first blurb from the police department was brief, and filled with holes. An unnamed police officer shot at Lane, while she was trying to run over him with her car.

The presentation by the department at the CPRC meeting on Dec. 22, 2004 was more lengthy but left a few issues unexplained. Not that it would answer many questions being what Chief RussLeach once testified in a deposition as being "a very sanitized version of the shooting incident."

The department had said on behalf of Wilson that Lane had tried to hit him with her car several times, and in fact ran over Wilson's left leg two, three, even four times. The department also said that Lane was backing into Wilson while he was fighting with her boyfriend on the ground, when he grabbed his gun and shot into the rear of the window, because he was in fear for his life.

That version of events was allowed to stand unchallenged until Sept. 28, when private investigator Norm Wright, a retired FBI agent, presented his own investigation of the Lane shooting to the CPRC. He agreed with the department's version, up to a point. Then he dropped the bomb shell that shook the CPRC especially its law enforcement booster quartet to the core.

According to eye witnesses, Wilson was not even on the ground when he shot Lane. He had gotten up, walked all the way behind her stationary vehicle, then walked up to her window or just behind it, and shot her four times straight without saying a word, before walking back to handcuff her boyfriend who he had been fighting with. Even though his left leg had allegedly been run over by Lane's car up to four times, Wilson not only did not limp, he walked at a quickened pace all the way to the point near the car where he pulled the trigger.

Lane died of at least one of those bullet strikes on the way to the hospital. Wilson eventually went to the hospital too, allegedly according to early reports with a broken or sprained ankle. Then it was reported that although his left leg was ran over by Lane's vehicle up to four times, it was okay enough for him to be interviewed shortly after at the General Investigations Bureau, and possibly even return to duty after the mandatory 72 hour cooling off period. Photographs in Wright's report showed only a couple of small abrasians aka road rash, and perhaps a contusion on Wilson's knee, according to several commissioners. Miraculous, for someone who had just had his left leg pressed into the ground, up to four times by a 1996 Honda car checking in at well over a ton.

The DA after reviewing the investigation submitted by the OIS team declined to file charges against Wilson. The Internal Affairs Division which does not even conduct independent investigations of fatal shootings also pretended it did not see a thing. But apparently, Norm Wright did and through his report, the CPRC did also. Its blinders came off as it saw that life is not as simple as officers taking lives in a justified fashion. Real life is much messier, and even the most santitized version of an ugly incident put on display, can reap an awful truth.

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