S.F. Police Chief, Public Defender Clash Over Latest Fatal Cop Shooting

By Dan Brekke and Alex Emslie
KQED

Update, 9:50 a.m. Thursday: The man who died in Wednesday’s officer-involved shooting has been identified as Mario Woods, 26, of San Francisco. In a statement confirming his identity, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Woods’ next of kin have been notified and an autopsy examination is being conducted.

Original post: San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr says video showing the moments leading up to a fatal police shooting in the Bayview neighborhood early Wednesday evening confirms officers faced a deadly threat before opening fire on a man they say was carrying a knife.

But Suhr’s interpretation of the video — posted on Instagram Wednesday night and embedded above — was disputed by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who said the man officers shot did not appear to pose an immediate threat to officers.

“Based on that snippet of video, it does seem as if the person was not posing a direct threat and certainly did not have to be shot,” Adachi said. “I certainly would want to know more about why this individual supposedly posed a risk that the officer felt that he or others were in harm of being killed.”

Suhr said after a meeting of the city’s Police Commission that the man officers shot was a suspect in a stabbing and was carrying a kitchen knife with a 6- to 8-inch blade.

Suhr said officers who confronted the man on Keith Street, near Third Street and Fitzgerald Avenue, opened fire after failing to subdue the man with “less lethal” beanbag rounds.

The video shows a man walking along a sidewalk and gesturing to a group of seven or eight police officers who have weapons drawn.

It’s not clear whether the man has an object in his hands. One officer moves to block the suspect’s progress as he moves along a wall bordering the sidewalk.

A woman’s voice can be heard screaming, “Just drop it! Just drop it, please!”

Then gunfire erupts — a rapid-fire sequence that could have been more than a dozen shots — followed by screams of, “Oh, my God.” Neither the shooting nor its results are shown in the video.

Suhr said that “in some of the video I saw,” the man involved in the incident “appears to go at the officer” who had tried to block him.

“Officers are allowed to fire in defense of themselves or others in danger of serious injury or death,” Suhr said after the commission meeting. “That’s what we have at this point in time.”

He said five officers fired on the man.

Adachi said his first reaction upon seeing the video was, “Oh, no, not another one.” The incident marked the Police Department’s sixth fatal shooting of the year.

The public defender said the incident highlighted the need for more restraint among officers who wield the means to kill.

“What I think San Franciscans want to see, particularly when you’re talking about the use of deadly force, is that it’s a last resort,” Adachi said. “I understand that officers are trained to kill, but if we are going to expect ordinary citizens to only shoot and kill people where they believe they are in danger of being killed themselves, we should hold police officers to a similar standard. Based on what we see in this video, it does not look like the officer who fired the fatal shots was in immediate danger of being killed.”

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