Mario Woods was shot by SFPD officers 20 times on December 2, with an autopsy describing the trajectory of 17 of his gunshots wounds as "back to front." The medical examiner's report was released yesterday, and in addition to details regarding his wounds also reveals that Woods had drugs in his system — most notably methamphetamine. There is evidence of a "probable" 21st bullet wound in the report, but it would be considered a "graze" and is not confirmed.
Woods was surrounded and shot on December 2 after police identified him as a possible suspect in a stabbing earlier in the day. Police initially alleged that Woods lunged at them with a 4.5" knife, a fact which Woods' family's attorney says is disproved by cell phone video of the incident.
In a federal civil rights suit filed by Woods' mother, Gwendolyn Woods, against the City of San Francisco, lawyers allege the police's use of force to be excessive — a claim which Ms. Woods' lawyers argue is bolstered by the autopsy findings.
“There’s an excessive number of bullets and shots that the officers fired at him,” attorney Adante Pointer told KQED. Pointer is one of several lawyers representing Woods' mother in the aforementioned suit. “There are 21 gunshot wounds, and 20 of the 21 were essentially fired at him from behind," he continued. "Only one came from the front and that was to his abdomen.”
According to the autopsy, two of the 20 confirmed bullet wounds struck Woods in the back of the head. The autopsy also notes wounds on Woods resulting from "less than lethal rounds," or, in other words, the bean bag rounds and rubber bullets officers say they initially fired at Woods.
In light of the lawsuit filed by Woods' family, the City has filed a response detailing police actions that the city alleges were "well within the settled parameters regarding the use of lethal force by police officers." Interestingly, the response no longer makes the claim that Woods lunged at officers with a knife extended, although it alleges that the safety of officers and bystanders was jeopardized by Woods.
"Woods, while still armed with a weapon," the city's response reads, "attempted to flee by walking past the officers and toward the area where numerous bystanders congregated. Officers, who have no duty to retreat, who may block the path of a fleeing suspect, who have a responsibility to arrest persons where probable cause exists to believe that person has committed a violent felony, and who have a responsibility to protect innocent bystanders and themselves, and faced with the imminent threat of another violent assault, shot Woods in defense of self and others."
The SFPD response also says that DNA found on the knife recovered at the scene matches DNA of the stabbing victim.
Mayor Ed Lee, who has faced protests as a result of his handling of this case, recently described the shooting death of Woods in an interview with the Sun-Reporter as "horrifying." "[It] was a firing squad," he continued. "That's not the way we stop people."