The same day that the San Francsico Public Defender's office released body camera video of a police shooting of a man alleged to be mentally ill, the San Francisco Police Department kicked at least two reporters out of a press conference, allegedly because their publication was online, "not in print."
On January 6, SFPD Officer Kenneth Cha shot Sean Moore following, police said at the time, a dispute with a neighbor. Police said that Moore "became physical" with the two officers dispatched to the scene, Cha and Officer Colin Patino, and that officers sprayed him with pepper spray when Moore attempted to grab one of the officer's batons, then shot him after that.
Moore had an alleged history of threatening the neighbor, including a conviction for assault against the neighbor's adult son in 2011. He's also mentally ill, his mother said at a subsequent community meeting regarding the shooting, arguing that police should have called for officers trained in crisis intervention and used the deescalation techniques required of them in their use of force policy.
At that same meeting, Acting SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin defended his officers' behavior, saying that (per the Ex) "Moore allegedly grabbed the restraining order paperwork from one of the officer’s hands. The officer’s partner deployed pepper spray. In response, Moore kicked an officer in the face, resulting in cuts and bruises...The police retreated down the stairs, at which point Moore came through the gate."
"Officers moved to arrest him, and one officer hit him with a baton,” Commender Greg McEachern of SFPD's Investigations Bureau says. “Moore punched the officer in face, and advanced on the second officer, who fired his weapon as he was retreating down the steps.”
But body camera video released Wednesday by the PD's office appears to tell a different story. Already pepper sprayed, it appears that the clearly troubled Moore — who is obviously agitated, and, make no mistake, is verbally abusive and uncooperative with police — retreated into the home with the paperwork. The officers then repeatedly scream at Moore to come back outside, saying they need the papers back and yelling threats, taunts and profanity at Moore, who has been diagnosed as bi-polar and schizophrenic, Public Defender Brian Pearlman says.
"Fuck you!" you hear an officer say to an already pepper-sprayed Moore in the footage. "What's up, motherfucker? Come here! Come here!"
Moore throws the papers to the officers, then as he steps back out to retrieve them, is charged by the police, who chase him up the stairs as they fire shots.
I'm going to paste the video of the shooting here. There's profanity and, obviously, Moore gets shot. I found it very upsetting, and I think you will too, but I also think it's important to watch. Below it I've also pasted a slowed-down version also provided by the Public Defender's office, which gives a better view of the movements in the moments immediately before and during the shooting.
“We feel that the video clearly demonstrates that the police version put forward was incorrect,” Adachi said at a press conference Wednesday. “This is a situation where Mr. Moore did not have to be shot. If the officers had used de-escalation techniques, they could have gone home.”
“If you look at basic de-escalation 101, you talk to the person, you try and get the person in a place where they are calmer, and if the person is making reasonable requests — in this case for the officers to step off his stairs — they could have done that without endangering themselves or Mr. Moore,” Adachi said. “There’s obviously a big gap between what the officers are being told at the academy and what is being done at the street.”
Though requests for the video footage's release have been made to the SFPD by multiple news organizations, all those requests have been denied. The PD's office, however, was able to gain access to the footage as they will be defending Moore, who was arraigned and pleaded not guilty last Friday to charges including criminal threats, threats against an officer, assault and battery on an officer and resisting arrest.
In a press conference held by the SFPD to respond to Adachi's claims, Chaplin continued to defend the shooting, even as reporters were ushered out of the event.
So, this is a little bit inside baseball, but here goes: Reporters who (in the words of the SFPD) “regularly cover police or fire breaking news" can apply for an SFPD press pass, which allows them access to certain crime and fire scenes. Back in 2011, in fact, the SFPD "culled" its list of press pass holders, knocking those who don't report from breaking scenes from the pass list, assuring reporters that this wouldn't have an impact on non-breaking reporting.
Six years later, it appears that yet another police change is going down, as the Ex reports that "two reporters were removed from the room for apparently not having press credentials." One of those reporters, Sana Saleem with 48 Hills, was asked by an SFPD spokesperson if 48 Hills "was 'like a blog,'" the Chron reports. Saleem was then told that "she couldn’t be credentialed because 48 Hills was 'not in print.'"
Journalists, myself included (and I don't have a SFPD press pass, either) have never been asked for a credential at an SFPD press conference in the past, but an invitation to Wednesday's included a line that "Credentialed media must RSVP," a signal, perhaps, of a new restriction on what members of the press are allowed to cover the police? In addition, "Before reporters walked into the room, they were asked to check in and provide their credentials and contact information," the Chron reports.
(To both their credit, Saleem still reported on the presser, using audio recordings of the event provided to her by Examiner reporter Jonah Owen Lamb. You can read her report here.)
It's unclear why at this press event police suddenly required attendees to have breaking news credentials, and a call for comment was not returned as of publication time. This was likely Chaplin's final press conference, as new SFPD Chief Bill Scott is scheduled to be sworn in on Monday.
During the media event, Chaplin said that even in light of the videos, which he claimed SFPD planned on releasing today, “there was great restraint" shown by the officers.
“They did not default to gun, they used pepper spray and baton,” Chaplin said. “They took time to evaluate before resorting to the firearm.”
“The officers are taught to kind of try to play through it and work out and resolve it on their own,” Chaplin said.
“They talked this guy down. They did what they could to try to calm him down, they were doing the best they can to explain why they were there. We watched the same video. They explained over and over. To me they kept a neutral voice even in the face of ethnic and racial slurs and everything that came with it.”
Moore is currently being held under $2 million bond, and has recently been moved from San Francisco General Hospital to SF County Jail, his mother told the Chron. Given the content of the video, Adachi says that the charges against Moore should be dropped. A spokesperson with the SF District Attorney’s Office spokesperson has not responded to a request for comment, but confirmed to the Ex that they "have already reviewed the videos."