A man who was shot five times by the SFPD in August in a widely covered incident in the Tenderloin is going free after being jailed for the last four months, after the cops in the case declined to testify.
Richard Everett, 54, was charged with resisting arrest, threatening a police officer, and carrying a knife following the August 28 incident on Jones Street in which he was surrounded by police. Initial reports indicated that Everett, who appeared to be called "Louisiana" by people in the neighborhood, was wielding a knife and refusing to drop it after being commanded to by police.
Officer were called to the scene because bystanders said Everett appeared to be menacing the neighborhood and possibly threatening people, but no one was harmed and the subsequently released bodycam footage from police showed him pretty clearly in a mental health crisis.
Everett was seen trying to walk away from the situation, but with the knife apparently still in hand, officers shot him five times in front of dozens of witnesses.
The SF Public Defender's Office announced last week that the charges against Everett were being dropped, but only after he had sat in jail for four months — and after the DA's office made a request to a judge that the jury not be told that that Everett was shot by police.
"Today’s dismissal illustrates why Mr. Everett should have never been charged and incarcerated since August of 2023," said Deputy Public Defender Nuha Abusamra in a statement. "The dismissal today is the right result, but we should question why it took so long to get here."
Abusamra, along with Deputy Public Defender Anthony Gedeon, argued in opening statements that Everett was told conflicting things by police, and that it was never clear that Everett posed a threat to anyone. They also argued that there was no justification for the use of lethal rounds — though the police were not being put on trial.
"The footage of the police shooting Mr. Everett is gruesome," Abusamra said. "When the police closed off the 300 block of Jones Street and surrounded Mr. Everett, they were not in danger. Police spent roughly 15 minutes giving him conflicting commands, both asking him to drop the knife and then telling him he could keep it. When Mr. Everett tried to slowly walk away while holding a milk crate in one hand and his duffel bag in the other, police opened fire with both less-lethal and lethal rounds in quick succession. That is not de-escalation. That is an attempt to execute him."
While Everett has been in police custody since that August night, he was initially hospitalized for his wounds, and his attorneys say that he has made "intermittent hospital visits" over the last four months "to attend to the severe injuries he suffered from the five gunshot wounds he sustained, including to his lung and right hand."
The case had progressed to trial and evidence was starting to be heard in court when the charges were dismissed on December 21, due to the lack of material witnesses.
One of the responding police officers reportedly refused to testify about what happened that night, and about the need for the use of lethal force.
"We’ve seen time and again that police too often resort to violence when interacting with vulnerable individuals like Mr. Everett," said Brian Cox, Director of the Public Defender’s Office Integrity Unit, in a statement. "This is why San Francisco needs alternatives to policing to better attend to community safety."
The case called to mind the explosive and fatal shooting of Mario Woods in December 2015. Woods was similarly surrounded by officers aiming guns at him while holding a knife when he was shot by San Francisco police. That case led to multiple protests and an upheaval at the SFPD, which ultimately led to the hiring of current chief Bill Scott.
The shooting of Everett remains under investigation, as far as we know, by the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability.
Top image via SF Public Defender's Office