San Francisco police officers will face no charges for their decisions to open fire on suspects in two separate incidents, both cases in which the suspect had drawn a gun.
It is a highly complex and fraught decision whether to charge police officers for their decisions to open fire and shoot at civilians, particularly in the routine mass shooting era when a suspect can do so much damage in so little time. But here in San Francisco, the end result seems to always be the same — no charges for the officers. And so it was again Monday, as KPIX reports that District Attorney George Gascón’s office announced there would no criminal charges against officers in a fatal 2017 hostage stand-off shooting, nor in an unrelated 2018 North Beach shooting that followed some Warriors championship celebrations.
In the officers’ defense, both suspects had drawn firearms; in the case of the fatal hostage stand-off, the suspect had already fired several shots.
That’s the 2017 fatal shooting of Nob Hill resident Damien Murray. At the time SF Weekly reported Murray had taken his wife and two children hostage after police were called into a domestic violence dispute. Follow-up details revealed Murray had fired at least three shots before two officers opened fire on him.
The Chronicle reports that in clearing these two officers, Gascón’s office noted that "given Mr. Murray’s earlier threats, discharge of his gun, and the danger that he presented by his reaching for his gun when officers confronted him during the hostage rescue, the District Attorney declines to file any criminal charges for either officer in this matter."
The 2018 North Beach shooting of Oliver Barcenas, which was captured on bodycam footage, was initiated when officers stopped to talk to Barcenas and four other men about drinking alcohol from open containers on the street after the Warriors won the 2018 NBA Finals title. Barcenas fled on foot down Grant Avenue, then drew a .45 caliber Glock pistol with a laser sight. That led officer Joshua Cabillo to fire, albeit “milliseconds” after Barcenas had dropped his weapon on the ground without aiming it.
See the footage below.
“Officer Cabillo said his fear for their lives was magnified because Barcenas’s gun was ‘superior’ to his — that is, Barcenas’s gun had an extended magazine and he could therefore shoot more rounds and faster than could Officer Cabillo,” the DA’s office said in their exoneration.
The Chronicle also reports that police had shot Barcenas once before in a separate 2012 incident.
Regardless of the merits of either decision, outgoing DA Gascón’s tenure has been critiqued for lack of accountability in police shootings. The four candidates running to replace him will surely have something to say about the two latest examples of the phenomenon.
Image: bill85704 via Flickr