The arrangement of rocks, flowers, and photographs that has sat beside Bernal Hill for the past two years in memory of Alex Nieto will be replaced by something more permanent, as the Board of Supervisors yesterday voted 9-to-1 to direct the Rec and Parks Department to install a memorial in honor of the deceased. Bay City News reports that all but Supervisor Mark Farrell voted in favor of the measure, with a majority of Supervisors arguing that it is important to remember Nieto's shooting death at the hands of the SFPD.
“That incident and the pain it’s created has had tremendous reverberations,” Supervisor John Avalos told a crowd gathered at City Hall. “Because of that pain there’s been a huge need to find some sense of healing at this spot.”
Alejandro "Alex" Nieto was shot up to 59 times on March 21, 2014, by officers responding to a call about a man with a gun. Subsequent investigation determined that he did not have a gun, but was armed with a Taser. Nieto was permitted to carry the Taser, and was on his way to work as a security guard at a night club when he reportedly stopped in the park to eat a burrito. The circumstances surrounding Nieto's actions that day, the and subsequent response by police, were the subject of intense scrutiny in a civil court earlier this year.
Nieto's killing outraged the community, and that outrage only increased when one witness testified that Nieto had his hands in his pockets when police opened fire. However, that witness was cross examined intensely, and the officers that shot Nieto were determined not to have used excessive force by an eight-person federal jury.
Both Nieto's parents and a community of supporters have maintained the makeshift memorial pictured above for the past two and a half years, and have been forced to repair it following multiple incidents of vandalism. Although the vandal's (or vandals') motive is unknown, Farrell's expressed criticism of the proposed permanent memorial possibly provides some insight.
“We don’t recognize the police officers killed or injured protecting residents,” Bay City News reports him as saying. “Somehow we’ve forgotten the debt we owe these men and women and someone needs to stand up for them.”
Supervisor John Avalos rejected this logic. “If we acknowledge these incidents have happened," the Examiner reports him as explaining, "it brings us closer.”
It is not clear what form the memorial will take, or when it will likely be completed.