San Francisco's police chief is defending the actions of his department, after a fatal shooting by officers Wednesday afternoon was partially caught on video.
According to a statement sent by the San Francisco Police Department early Thursday morning, at 3:49 p.m. Wednesday, San Francisco General Hospital staffers notified police that they were treating the victim of a stabbing.
"The victim, suffering from a stab wound to the shoulder, told a San Francisco Sheriff's Department Deputy that he had been stabbed on the 6600 block of Third Street," the statement reads. That's in the Bayview, near where Third meets Bayshore Boulevard.
The deputy passed "a preliminary description of the stabbing suspect" on to SFPD, and officers reported to the scene of the incident, police say.
When they arrived "officers were flagged down by a witness to the stabbing who provided further description of the suspect," but "were unable to locate him."
According to SFPD's statement, at 4:34 PM, police say they spotted the stabbing suspect, who they say "was armed with a knife, believed to be the weapon used in the stabbing."
From SFPD's emailed statement, which is a close replica of what SFPD chief Greg Suhr told media Wednesday night:
Several officers responded as back up. They contacted the suspect and ordered him to drop the knife numerous times. The suspect would not comply with the officers’ commands.
As the situation was developing, a supervisor from Bayview Station gave instructions via police radio that, if possible, officers should attempt to create time and distance from the suspect. As the suspect had already demonstrated that he was a danger to others by having stabbed an earlier victim, the officers could not allow him room to harm anyone else.
Officers deployed the Extended Range Impact Weapon (ERIW) ("Bean Bag” Gun) which is a less than lethal force option. After numerous verbal commands ordering the suspect to drop the knife, an officer fired less lethal ("bean bag") rounds which hit the suspect. The less than lethal rounds had no apparent effect on the suspect.
An officer utilized pepper spray which also had no apparent effect on the suspect.
Officers also utilized a higher-powered ERIW several times, which struck the suspect and caused him to drop to one knee, but did not cause him to drop the knife. The suspect stood back up, still holding the knife and attempted to walk northbound on Keith Street towards Fitzgerald.
One of the officers moved to a position on the sidewalk in an effort to prevent the suspect from fleeing. Still armed with the knife, the suspect moved towards that officer.
At this point, fearing serious injury or death, officers fired their department issued handguns at the suspect. The suspect was struck by the gunfire and fell to the ground.
In a post that has generated over 900 comments at publication time (most sharply critical of SFPD), Instagram user daniggahot posted the below video of the shooting. Obviously, it's disturbing, so please watch with care.
This video, of what appears to be the shooting from another angle was posted to Twitter by user pacobaco_.
According to SFPD's statement, "The officers rendered aid, performing CPR until paramedics arrived. Once on scene, the paramedics pronounced the suspect deceased."
At 9:45 a.m. Thursday, the San Francisco Medical Examiner identified the deceased as 26-year-old San Francisco resident Mario Woods.
"Chief Medical Examiner Michael D. Hunter, M.D. is conducting the autopsy examination to document the cause of death," the ME's office says in a statement.
"The next of kin have been notified, and the final report is pending completion at this time."
Though the Ex reports that SFPD Chief Greg Suhr would not confirm the authenticity of either video, he did say that “We have since recovered or found some video, they appear to show the officers encircle him and they appear to show the suspect moving toward the officer before the shots were fired."
"San Francisco Police have since viewed what appears to be cell phone video depicting a portion of the officers' contact with the suspect," SFPD wrote in their statement.
"Investigators will continue to canvas the area for more video and we encourage anyone who captured video of the incident to contact SFPD Homicide Investigators at (415) 553-1145."
From what he's seen, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi tells the Chron that “the person was not posing a direct threat and certainly did not have to be shot.”
Officers in a situation like this one “can move back and at least order the person to the ground or use some other sort of defensive maneuver, rather than using a gun and shooting him point-blank,” Adachi says.
This is the sixth fatal shooting by San Francisco police officers for 2015.
“Officers are allowed to fire in defense of themselves or others in danger of serious injury or death,” Suhr told KQED when pressed about the video. “That’s what we have at this point in time.”
“I understand that officers are trained to kill, but if we are going to expect ordinary citizens to only shoot and kill people where they believe they are in danger of being killed themselves, we should hold police officers to a similar standard," Adachi told KQED.
"Based on what we see in this video, it does not look like the officer who fired the fatal shots was in immediate danger of being killed.”
KTVU reports that five of the officers who participated in the shooting are now on administrative leave, and will remain so during an investigation by the SFPD Homicide Division, SFPD's Internal Affairs Division, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office and the Office of Citizen Complaints.
In a statement sent Thursday afternoon (thus far, the only one released by any San Francisco politicians), District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen acknowledged the video of the shooting, and urged residents to remain peaceful. Here's what she sent:
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic officer involved shooting that occurred last night in the Bayview and my heart aches for the family that has lost a loved one.
Many have seen the widely publicized video of this shooting and we will all undoubtedly have different perspectives but the fact is that a young man has been killed and is no longer with us.
There are two separate investigations occurring and I urge the parties conducting those efforts to preform them transparently, thoroughly and quickly with full cooperation from all involved.
I encourage people to honor the life of Mr. Mario Woods through peaceful and nonviolent gatherings in remembrance of his life. In the next few days SFPD will hold a public town hall meeting to discuss the details of the shooting and I encourage anyone with questions to attend. The time and location of the meeting will be released shortly.”