As the San Francisco Police Department announces a Town Hall meeting to discuss a shooting Friday that left an officer critically injured and an alleged gunman dead, more details are emerging on the suspect's life before the incident.
26-year-old Nicholas McWherter, who was identified Monday as the man who allegedly shot SFPD officer Kevin Downs Friday night after police were called to an Outer Sunset strip mall, was allegedly causing a disturbance in a Big 5 sporting goods store in the mall. When police arrived, McWherter allegedly shot Downs in the head, then fled into Stern Grove. He was arrested following a manhunt during which McWherter was shot by officers. He died at San Francisco General Hospital on Sunday afternoon of his injuries.
ABC 7 reports that McWherter "was threatening shoppers" before police arrived Friday. According to KTVU, McWherter had been "trying to buy a knife" at the Big 5, then "fought with security and then ran off." NBC Bay Area reports that before he fled, "McWherter was pepper sprayed by security after reportedly shadow boxing and using karate moves on customers."
KTVU reports that McWherter "was raised in Pacifica along with his three brothers, one of whom actually called police the day of the shooting to report him missing." According to ABC 7, he "was apparently struggling with mental health issues the last couple of months," with NBC Bay Area saying that his "family recently tried to get him committed to a mental health facility." KTVU reports that he had been prescribed medication for his illness, but he had stopped taking in in recent days.
Pacifica police say that their last contact with McWherter was a traffic stop two weeks ago. At some point after that, he drove a white Ford van to San Francisco and parked it on 17th Avenue, near Kirkham Street. That's where he had lived ever since, according to media reports.
"I noticed a white van parked outside of my house and it was there for several days. That was basically the only thing I noticed until Saturday night when I saw lights from a police car outside," neighbor Jeremy Bornstein told ABC 7, with police towing the van away that night.
"It's a little bit terrifying," another neighbor said, "but at the same time you can't be scared of everything."
San Franciscans are urged to share their fears or concerns regarding the incident Thursday, when the SFPD will hold a town hall on the shooting. It's been set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center at 2850 19th Avenue, according to a police spokesperson, and are all encouraged to attend.
Meanwhile, Downs remains in the hospital, recovering from the shooting. According to acting SFPD chief Toney Chaplin, while his injures are serious, they could have been worse, saying “One centimeter down and this may have been a fatality for the officer." As of Tuesday, he remains in stable condition at SF General.
McWherter's family has met with the Downs family to offer their condolences, KTVU reports. "Our family is grieving over this unfortunate situation," said Carrie Campos, McWherter's cousin, told NBC.
"Our thoughts are also with Officer Downs and his family. We hope and pray for a speedy recovery for him."