Dec. 4—Next weekend, Bradley Young would have celebrated his 31st birthday. Instead, his family will spend the day as they have for the last three years wondering why he's not with them and who's to blame.
On Oct. 22, 2018, Young was shot several times in the upper torso in the area of Reeves and Cooper avenues. Officers found Young around 10:30 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Young was 27 at the time, less than two months shy of his 28th birthday on Dec. 11. His mother, Rhonda Pope, has spent the last three years trying to obtain information about the investigation including her son's autopsy without success.
She said she wants justice for her son and hasn't been pleased by the Yuba City Police Department's investigation.
"I think they know who did it," Pope said. "... I just don't feel like they're doing enough."
Young was survived by his two children, Andrew, now 9, and Shayla, now 11, according to Pope. She described her son as a "happy go lucky person."
"He had a good heart," Pope said.
She takes care of Young's son Andrew, who Pope said has been the most affected by Young's death. She recalled Young's last Fourth of July when Young, Andrew and Pope celebrated in front of the house with fireworks. Pope said Andrew is a "good kid" but has a lot of anger that stems from how his father died.
"It devastated us. We're still devastated," Pope said. "... It's been hell."
She said not having closure and an ongoing investigation has made it even harder to get through.
"My life will never be the same," Pope said.
The Appeal's requests for documents related to the investigation and Young's autopsy were denied by the Yuba City Police Department and Sutter County Sheriff's Office respectively. Both agencies cited the investigation being active and ongoing as the reason for not releasing documents.
"The release of such requested documents could reasonably interfere with such investigation," a response from the Sutter County Counsel's office read. "Therefore, any and all potentially disclosable records are being withheld for the time being."
At the time of the shooting, then YCPD Detective Todd Wolfe was assigned to the case. Wolfe retired in 2019 and the case was assigned to Detective Scott Rounds. Rounds said that he and investigator Charmpreet Singh are now "actively working the case."
"It is not near the point of a cold case," YCPD Sgt. Brent Slade said Thursday.
Rounds immediately added, "not even close."
He said homicide cases will go cold when there's no new information and any leads have been run out. Homicide cases are open forever and are reviewed by the department every couple of years.
"A case like this is a case that is an ongoing investigation," Rounds said. "I would say it is talked about here often because there are some investigative steps that we haven't been able to do yet."
Specifically regarding the autopsy not being released, Rounds said it would hurt the investigation and affect conversations detectives have with possible persons of interest if the specifics about Young's injuries are out in the public. The family can't obtain the information because police fear the information could spread from a few people to many in the community. Rounds and Slade said the family's involvement in the case by talking to people with information hurt the investigation early on.
"I requested that she stop meddling in some things ... Early on there was some hindering," Rounds said of Pope. "It's because they want to know what happened and I get it. I understand, but on occasion that will hinder our investigation."
He said some of the family's mistrust could be related to Young's previous interactions with YCPD but Rounds said that hasn't affected the case at all.
"I don't care if you are a bad person and the next day you're the victim," Rounds said. "My job is to make sure that those that get victimized have the due process ... my job is to make sure that there is some justice for you on that event."
In this and other homicide investigations, Slade said there are challenges in getting people who may have information to corroborate if they were present, what they saw and what they heard.
"We would get lots of third-hand information but when we went to a source it's hard to verify," Rounds said. "Which we find in a lot of our unsolved homicide cases."
Rounds said the Young investigation has included 60 supplements and close to 30 search warrants. A supplement documents anything a detective does during the investigation such as evidence collection or statements taken.
"A lot of work's been done on this case ... a lot of people have been talked to and that's why it hasn't gone on the shelf as being cold," Rounds said.
Jason Pritchard is a lecturer for the criminal justice department at California State University, Sacramento. He has more than 16 years of experience in law enforcement including gang investigations and he is currently a supervising criminal investigator. He said years into an investigation, detectives could be having difficulty locating witnesses, be waiting on subpoena responses or other forensic type delays. He said the pandemic has made these steps take longer.
Pritchard said the California Public Records Act says all records collected by the government belong to the public and can be disclosed upon request, absent an exemption.
"However, these exemptions are written so vaguely that law enforcement can pretty much find an exemption for anything not to disclose," Pritchard said in an email. "... I have found the small agencies more difficult to get records from as they are not as familiar with the intent of the California Public Records Act."
Pritchard said a misconception about murder investigations is that they all get solved. He said from 2014 to 2016, only 62 percent of all murders and non-negligent homicides in the United States were cleared.
"The pandemic has thrown some serious obstacles in place for conducting interviews, knocking on doors looking for witnesses, subpoena response, etc," Pritchard said. "The fact that they say the 'investigation is ongoing,' I would say that is a good thing, as personally, I would have no problem moving a case to 'cold.' ... I can only imagine how frustrating this must be."
Rounds encouraged people with information about the case to reach out. Anyone with information can call the department's anonymous tip line at 530-822-2026.
"This is the type of case that if somebody calls in with credible information, we're going to run with it," Rounds said. "It would be all hands on deck."
Pope said she's not confident that the department will arrest the perpetrator but said she has to keep going.
"I have to fight for him," Pope said.