The news that broke late Wednesday regarding the District Attorney's decision not to pursue charges against the two SFPD officers involved in the fatal February 2015 shooting of Amilcar Perez-Lopez is still reverberating around the city. Police accountability activists say they were warned as long ago as last summer that DA George Gascon thought the case was un-prosecutable, as San Francisco Magazine reports, but that isn't going to stop community members frustrated by the number of deaths at the hands of police, and the seeming lack of accountability in any of the cases so far.
A small protest of about 25 people gathered outside Mission Station and blocked an intersection at Valencia and 17th Street Wednesday night, as Mission Local reports. Some carried signs asking for the Department of Justice to investigate the case.
Officers Eric Reboli and Craig Tiffe were exonerated in the 25-page report that resulted from a two-year investigation, and in particular the DA's Office was satisfied with expert testimony that explained how it was possible that Officer Reboli said Perez-Lopez was coming toward him with a knife when he opened fire, but four of the five shots that Reboli fired entered Perez-Lopez's body from back to front. That testimony came from use-of-force expert Charles J. Key, who explained, "A subject can turn 180 degrees more quickly than the fact that he/she has turned can be comprehended [by an officer]. Given the necessity for the shooter to focus on the mechanics of shooting, the shooter’s recollection of the event will, also, be more specific as to what caused him/her to shoot rather than what the subject was specifically doing after the time the decision to shoot was made and during the time the shots are being fired."
Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young spoke to ABC 7 after reading the DA's report saying she was "horrified" by how it reached its conclusions. "The district attorney's office hired experts to clear the police, hired reconstructioists to recreate the scene, and every part of this investigation seems to have been geared toward clearing these officers not toward doing an impartial investigation."
Gascon issued a statement saying "I take my responsibility in these cases incredibly seriously. [And] It is my sworn duty to follow the facts and the law, wherever that may lead." But in this case, as activists who met with him last July said to SF Mag, "He went through, point by point: ‘Here’s what happened, here’s what we turned up, here are all the Supreme Court decisions constraining me, the laws of California constraining me. Long story short: I cannot file charges against the officers; I don’t have enough evidence to hold up in court.'"
Meanwhile, though this is the second recent high-profile case in which officers have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, following the fatal shooting of Alex Nieto in March 2014, 10 more cases remain in which the DA must make charging decisions involving officers and the death of a civilian.
The Mario Woods, Luis Gongora, and Jessica Williams cases, which all occurred within six months last year and led directly to the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr, are the highest profile and could present the biggest challenges for the DA's Office, which took two years and two months to come to a decision in the Perez-Lopez case.
The Chronicle runs down the remaining seven cases that remain under internal investigation:
Nicholas McWherter McWherter, 26, an armed man suffering from an apparent mental crisis, was killed after he shot and seriously wounded Officer Kevin Downs in the Sunset District on Oct. 14, 2016. ...
Javier Lopez Garcia Garcia, 25, was apparently suicidal when he was killed Nov. 11, 2015, after he ascended to the sixth floor of a construction site near St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission and fired a gun. He allegedly said at the scene, “Today will be the day that I die.”
Benitez, 27, had been in the Civic Center area behaving erratically and allegedly tried to take a police sergeant’s gun out of his holster when another sergeant shot him Oct. 15, 2015.
A 24-year-old woman who struggled with drug addiction, Brown was shot by Sgt. Thomas Maguire and Officer Michael Tursi on March 17, 2015, after she allegedly sped away from a gas station at Van Ness Avenue and Pine Street, crashing into vehicles and a building and driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction.
Hoffman, 32, allegedly pulled a replica gun from his waistband, prompting two sergeants to shoot him outside Mission Station on Jan. 4, 2015. Investigators searching his phone reported finding notes about plans to force officers to kill him in a “suicide by cop” situation.
Evans, 26, was shot by Officer David Goff on Oct. 7, 2014. Police said he was the driver for two passengers who had stolen a laptop out of a car near AT&T Park, and had a gun in his lap when Goff approached him. Goff said Evans pointed the gun at him, forcing him to shoot. Evans’ family has disputed the account.
Giovany Contreras Sandoval
Sandoval, 34, a suspect in a carjacking [from San Rafael], was shot after leading officers on a three-county chase, flipping a sport utility vehicle in the Financial District and allegedly pointing a pistol at officers on Sept. 25, 2014.