The man shot and killed by SFPD officers at SFO's International Terminal last Thursday morning has been identified.
The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office reported today that the dead man was 37-year-old Nelson Waynezhi Szeto. Szeto reportedly had no known address or city of residence, however a quick internet search came up with a past address that may be an SRO on Clay Street in SF's Chinatown.
Police and airport officials initially said Szeto was armed and acting erratically near the BART Station entrance at SFO. But after he allegedly failed to drop what appeared to be two firearms he was carrying, and continued behaving in an allegedly threatening manner, police fired on and fatally shot him.
By Friday we were learning that Szeto was not actually armed, but was carrying two replica, Airsoft-style pistols that shoot plastic pellets. The state attorney general's office has since taken over the investigation into the shooting.
"[Szeto] appeared to be armed with a handgun," said SFPD spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan in a statement.
ABC 7 spoke to San Mateo County District Attorney Steven Wagstaffe who said he saw a photograph of the two replica handguns and he said, "They absolutely looked real to me. If I were standing and a man across from me was holding those I would assume he had a firearm that could be used to harm me."
Wagstaffe tells the station that it was likely that the orange tip that usually distinguishes an Airsoft pistol from a real one had been cut off, and he added, "we've seen that happen many times."
The incident unfolded just after 7 a.m. on Thursday after a TSA agent alerted authorities to the man's strange behavior. When it appeared the man was armed, multiple SFPD officers came to the scene, and the BART station was briefly shut down. Airport travelers were also directed away from the TSA checkpoint that was nearest to the confrontation.
Police have not said how many officers fired on Szeto, but the entire interaction reportedly lasted around 45 minutes, in which officers said they attempted de-escalation tactics.
A bystander was shot, possibly by a ricochet bullet, when the shooting took place, but they did not suffer serious injuries.
This is the first police shooting in the Bay Area involving an unarmed suspect that is being investigated by the state's Department of Justice and a new investigative unit that AG Rob Bonta created last year to handles these types of cases.
Photo: Duke Cullinan