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Civil rights lawsuit

City sued in death of bystander during police chase

on January 27, 2023

The family of Lolomania Soakai is suing the Oakland Police Department, claiming that an unauthorized police chase led to the death of the 27-year-old known as “Lolo” last summer.

The Soakai family, represented by Adanté Pointer and Patrick Buelna, held a news conference Thursday, a day after the civil rights lawsuit was filed in federal court, to announce that they’re seeking to hold OPD responsible for Soakai’s death. Soakai’s mother, Lavina Soakai, who attended with several family members, cried throughout.

“We are filing this lawsuit to seek accountability,” Pointer said. “Two police officers decided to engage in an illicit, violent police chase.”

Soakai was celebrating a friend’s college graduation, enjoying food with friends and family on June 25 at Tacos Los Amigos food truck at 54th Avenue and International Boulevard around 1 a.m. when Arnold Linaldi, 19, crashed into them. Soakai, who was standing next to a car, was crushed by the impact, as nearby motorcycles entrapped him amid the wreckage, the lawsuit says. Lavina Soakai was hurt in the collision, which left her with back injuries. The complaint alleges that two Oakland officers were “ghost” chasing Linaldi, who had been involved in a sideshow. 

The lawsuit describes a ghost chase as a pursuit in which officers do not activate their lights and sirens or alert dispatch. It says the department doesn’t permit such pursuits because of the risks to the suspect and bystanders. The officers, who are not named in the suit, were driving 60 mph or more on city streets, the complaint says, and they did not stop or call for an ambulance after seeing the crash. 

The department placed the two officers on administrative leave and is currently investigating the incident. OPD and the city attorney’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“It has brought us a lot of trauma,” said Soakai’s cousin Ina Lavalu, who witnessed the crash and also was injured. 

“It takes a big toll on me, because everything brings me back to that night,” she added. “He’s no longer with us, but he’ll stay forever in our heart.”

This story was updated to correct the spelling of Andanté Pointer’s name and an editing error — Lolo Soakai was not standing next to Inna Lavalu’s car.

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