In one of multiple cases in recent years in which a civilian was fatally shot by San Francisco police, the District Attorney's Office announced today that no charges would be filed against the two officers involved in the shooting. As the Examiner reports, despite public pressure, DA George Gascon released a 25-page document of investigative findings Wednesday and concluded that the shooting was justified.
The incident began on February 26, 2015 when 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was allegedly in a fight with another man it was originally reported that Perez-Lopez was trying to steal a bicycle at knifepoint, though that is now unclear. Two plainclothes officers arrived on the scene and approached Perez-Lopez and the bicyclist, identified as Abraham P., and reportedly identifying themselves as police officers and demanding that Perez-Lopez drop his weapon. Perez-Lopez apparently did not drop his weapon, and fearing that the other man's life was in danger, officers fired on Perez-Lopez and he died.
Witnesses, including Perez-Lopez's roommates, have repeatedly said that Perez-Lopez was shot in the back, but according to the report he was first shot by one officer several times as he was running toward him with the large kitchen knife, and the second officer fired once as Perez-Lopez was "kind of moving in different directions." Both officers and Abraham P., as well as a jogger in the neighborhood who served as a witness, attest that Perez-Lopez appeared crazed, possibly in an altered state, with bloodlust in his eyes an autopsy showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, almost 2.5 times the legal limit for driving. The officers say that he did not appear to acknowledge that he heard them when they said they were police, and told him to drop his weapon.
The original cause of the fight remains unresolved in the report, with different witnesses saying either that Perez-Lopez was made because Abraham wouldn't sell him a bike, or he attacked Abraham because Abraham had stolen his cellphone. Still other witnesses report that Perez-Lopez was angry because Abraham wouldn't let him into a building at 2843 Folsom Street.
After the shooting, Abraham P. was heard saying, "That officer saved my life. The officer in the tan pants just saved my life."
Two of Perez-Lopez's roommates contest the officers' account that Perez-Lopez refused to drop his knife. They say they either heard the knife hit the ground before shots were fired, or that the officers didn't give Perez-Lopez enough time to respond before the shots were fired.
According to the report's conclusion, "Based on the facts, circumstances and applicable law in this matter, there is insufficient evidence to file any criminal charges against Officer [Eric] Reboli or Officer [Craig] Tiffe."
Further, the report reads, "The officers’ accounts describing what they observed as they reached the scene are consistent with the evidence. Contrary to stories circulated in the community that the altercation had been amicably resolved and Perez-Lopez was casually walking home alone by the time the officers showed up, overwhelming evidence confirms that the knife chase was still very much in progress when Officers Tiffe and Reboli arrived."
Perez-Lopez's family is continuing to move forward with a civil suit against the city and the SFPD, and they believe that his killing was not justified.