In the first witness testimony in the wrongful death trial relating to the 2014 SFPD shooting of Alejandro "Alex" Nieto, rookie officer Richard Schiff, 25, testified that he believed Nieto's red 49ers jacket might be gang-affiliated, and that he emptied his gun shooting at Nieto when he saw him reaching for what he believed was a handgun with a red laser sight. As ABC 7 reports, Schiff, who had only been on the force two and a half months at the time, fired the majority of the bullets that were shot at Nieto 13 rounds that were in his gun, after which he reloaded and shot 10 more.*
As the Chronicle reported from the courtroom, Schiff said on the stand, "It was tragic. But unfortunately I was forced."
Schiff and his training sergeant, Jason Sawyer, were the first two officers to testify Wednesday, and 48 Hills notes the differences in their testimony about how Nieto reached for his Taser "Schiff said that Nieto had reached down with both hands and assumed a shooting stance; Sawyer said that Nieto pulled up his jacket with his left hand and took the Taser out of the holster with his right."
Both say they saw the Taser's red light as a laser beam pointed at them, and this prompted them both begin shooting, Schiff obviously more enthusiastically.
Also part of Schiff's testimony was a description of how Nieto appeared to still be aiming his weapon at the officers from a "prone position" after he'd be hit by multiple shots and fell to the ground, which is what prompted the ongoing rain of bullets.
Under questioning by Nieto family attorney Adante Pointer, Schiff was asked "Every one of those squeezes of the trigger, you actually have to be justified in pulling the trigger?," and he replied, "Absolutely. I’m responsible for every single round," as Mission Local reports. Pointer also suggested that the rookie cop, who met with his father, who is a veteran cop in the SFPD, at Ingleside Station before giving his initial statement about the shooting, might have concocted the story to justify the use of lethal force, and he said that any embarrassment he might have felt after shooting would never justify concocting a story.
Two other officers who also arrived on the scene after Schiff and Sawyer, Roger Morse and Nathan Chew, are also expected to testify.
*This post has been corrected to show that Schiff fired a total of 23 shots, not 36.