On Monday, SFPD held a virtual town hall from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. over the police killing of 21-year-old carjacking suspect Cesar Antonio Vargas, where public comment was held and the two officers involved in the shooting were named.
The SF Examiner was first to break the news of the SFPD officers named in the October 10 police shooting of Vargas, and body-worn camera, and private surveillance footage was released for the first time during the police department’s town hall Monday that showed the moment Vargas was shot.
SFPD Police Chief William Scott began the digital event by saying “this evening is about transparency,” and that the SFPD, as well as other City offices, are conducting investigations into the police killing.
The San Francisco Medical Examiner was also described as being on-scene after the shooting, as is mandatory for any killings where an SFPD officer is involved; the Medical Examiner’s office is also conducting its own independent investigation of the shooting.
After Scott concluded his remarks — which, more or less, described the evening’s intent and provided updates on the fatal shooting — SFPD Commander Robert O'Sullivan then began describing the event in detail before presenting recorded emergency calls, pictures relevant to the crime, and video footage.
According to police, the incident began around 11:25 p.m. on October 10 near the Mission District on Valencia and Market streets. Private surveillance footage released shows Vargas approaching and entering a third-generation Toyota Prius that was stopped in traffic along Market Street. Before entering the vehicle that was being driven by an unamed female victim, Vargas could be seen jumping on the hood and windshield of the car, breaking the large panel of glass inward toward the driver. Eye-witnesses confirmed this later in recorded 911 calls.
Vargas then allegedly entered the vehicle and held what was described as a small knife to the driver’s face, yelling expletives at her, before pushing her out of the vehicle.
“Mr. Vargas shouted something to the effect of ‘kill me bitch,’” police said during the town hall. Vargas, however, shortly left the vehicle — which was still operating — and the Prius rolled down Market Street; this description, too, was later confirmed by present eyewitnesses. The woman’s necklace was apparently ripped off, and her glasses were thrown off her face.
Vargas, dressed in a gray sweatshirt, then walked past a Muni bus and then pushed a passenger stepping out of the bus as he walked by, per Muni footage. He then moved south on Gough and allegedly attempted to enter another person’s car — but a bystander, who had also been following Vargas, deterred him from making contact with the driver.
At least four emergency calls were made from the time of the apparent carjacking of the female victim’s Prius to when SFPD officers Kyle Roach and Nicholas Delgado arrived at the scene; as noted in the town hall, eyewitnesses and 911 callers guided Roach and Delgado to the direction of Vargas. Police were made aware that Vargas may be holstering a three-inch or longer knife.
Please note that the video below includes a recorded police killing and distressing 911 calls that some may find disturbing and traumatizing.
No possession of a firearm was made apparent by 911 calls.
Both Delgado and Roach eventually found Vargas at Otis Street, between Gough and Brady streets around 11:30 p.m. that evening. (Body-worn camera footage from each of the involved officers shows them confronting Vargas.) Walking in the middle of the street, the presented footage shows on-site officers shouting “show me your hands” to Vargas.
Vargas then began running toward one of the officers, allegedly threatening them.
It’s at this point, around the 1:09:45 mark in the video above, where four recorded gunshots can be heard, fired from police, and Vargas immediately falls to the ground. It appears no non-lethals were used by the involved SFPD officers during the event.
“Show me your hands,” one officer is heard demanding of Vargas. Vargas emits one moan and slightly raises his arms, head, and hands above the cement before becoming unresponsive.
“Spread out your hands, man,” an officer can be heard saying in the released video. “We’re here to help you.” The same officer can also be heard later saying “I want to help you, I need to help you” before EMTs arrive on the scene.
On-site first responders continue trying to speak to an unresponsive Vargas, who is still face down on the road. At some point, the footage shows SFPD approach him with a bullet-shield before handcuffing Vargas.
EMTs then began performing CPR to medically revive him. Upon being turned over, EMTs note that Vargas had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest; no gunshot wounds to his legs, arms, or feet were apparently observed.
Vargas was later pronounced dead at the scene after attempts to resuscitate him failed. As is SFPD policy regarding police killings, Delgado and Roach have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Before the town hall opened to public comment, Scott again took to the podium to reiterate that five simultaneous investigations of this shooting are still underway from SF District Attorney’s Office, the SFPD’s Internal Affairs Division, the SFPD’s Investigative Services Detail, the Department of Police Accountability, and the SF Medical Examiner.
Though some callers did call in to express their approval of the SFPD’s handling of the situation, the majority condemned the police killing.
One caller noted that it was evident Vargas was under some sort of emotional distress or in a mental health crisis based on his erratic behavior. Another caller, too, noted that Vargas appeared to be mentally unwell that the situation might have been able to be de-escalated with the help of trained mental health professionals.
“It’s your job to keep people safe, not kill them,” one town hall attendee could be heard saying. This sentiment was also expressed by an additional caller who added “shooting someone doesn’t protect them.”
As we included in our initial reporting on the incident, the last SFPD officer-involved shooting occurred in April of this year when police descended on the 500 block of Jones Street after a person was seen brandishing a knife. While officers were attempting to disarm the individual, an officer-involved shooting occurred; the victim then fled on foot and was later detained after holding up inside Glide Memorial Church before he was ultimately taken to a local hospital for treatment. It was later determined that the suspect was not struck by gunfire, despite shots being fired.
Image: Screenshot from YouTube