By Alex Emslie
A long-awaited medical examiner’s report was released today on the cause and manner of death of a 28-year-old man shot and killed by San Francisco police on March 21.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said four days after the shooting that Alejandro Nieto pointed a Taser stun gun at officers responding to reports of a man with a gun at Bernal Heights Park. The officers believed the Taser was a firearm, and shot Nieto from about 75 feet away, Suhr said.
Nieto died from 14 or 15 gunshot wounds, which “may have been created by as few as ten (10) bullets,” according to the report (read below). The medical examiner cites gunshot wounds with “intersecting paths” that may have been caused by one or more bullets.
Nieto was shot in the forehead, upper lip, chest and both arms. He appears to have been shot three times from behind, including in the back of the left shoulder, mid-back, and right lower leg, according to the report.
A toxicology screen turned up traces of marijuana in Nieto’s blood. The medical examiner cites “a clinical history of psychosis exacerbated by non-compliance with medications” in the report, a factor Suhr mentioned days after the shooting.
Nieto had a history of “aggressive and bizarre behavior, auditory hallucinations, and noncompliance to psychiatric medications,” according to the report, which also cites a 2011 incident in which Nieto was placed on a 5150 hold, meaning he was taken into custody because he was a danger to himself or others due to a mental health disorder.
The dead man’s family and supporters point out that he was an aspiring probation officer who was cleared to intern at the San Francisco probation department. He was a City College student studying criminal justice, and carried the Taser for his job as a security guard at a San Francisco nightclub. Nieto was also well known in the city’s Mission District, where hundreds marched last month to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit over the shooting.
Nieto’s parents are represented in the suit by Oakland-based civil rights attorney Adante Pointer.
“It doesn’t settle the issue on whether or not these officers acted lawfully,” Pointer said about the medical examiner’s report. “This is a person who may have had some mental issues, and because of that, essentially he did something that warranted his death. I put my weight in an independent witness as opposed to someone who’s biased and has an interest in the case.”
A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department said the department cannot comment because of the pending lawsuit.
The San Francisco district attorney’s independent investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
“Medical examiner’s reports are always important when there’s an officer-involved shooting,” said DA spokesman Alex Bastion. “We’ll be reviewing it in conjunction with our independent investigation. There’s quite a bit of information in there.”