Two S.F. Officers in Woods Shooting Have Faced Excessive Force Claims

By Alex Emslie

Two of the officers identified by the San Francisco Police Department as being involved in the fatal Dec. 2 shooting of Mario Woods have faced federal lawsuits alleging excessive force, court documents show.

The two officers, Charles August and Nicholas Cuevas, are among five the Police Department says opened fire on Woods.

The five were part of a contingent of a dozen or more officers who confronted Woods, 26, near the corner of Third and Fitzgerald streets in the city’s Bayview district. Police say Woods was a suspect in a stabbing several blocks away and was carrying a kitchen knife with an 8-inch blade when officers spotted him. Police say he refused to drop the weapon even after officers shot him with “less-lethal” beanbag rounds and pepper-sprayed him.

August and Cuevas, as well as Officers Winson Seto, Antonio Santos and Scott Phillips, opened fire after Woods, a neighborhood resident, walked toward August, who had stepped into his path in an apparent attempt to stop him.

August is among seven officers sued in federal court last year by a Bayview resident named David Lloyd, who says he suffered a broken ankle and other injuries in an encounter outside a neighborhood store. Lloyd’s suit alleges a group of plainclothes officers who were engaged in making an arrest outside the store started harassing him and stopped him from getting his bicycle.

From the lawsuit:

Then Officer Charles August (in uniform) arrived at the scene and began to push Mr. Lloyd … Then within a minute, Defendant Charles AUGUST slammed Mr. Lloyd onto the ground. Mr. Lloyd hit his head on the ground and had his belly fully pressed against the ground. Immediately, five other police officers at the scene jumped on top of Mr. Lloyd and all police officers began to beat him by punching and kicking him while he was subdued on the ground.

Within 45 seconds, Defendant police officers had handcuffed Mr. Lloyd. Nevertheless, Defendant police officers continued to beat Mr. Lloyd relentlessly for almost four minutes after he had been handcuffed and neutralized as a potential threat.

As a result, Mr. Lloyd suffered a fractured left ankle, injured knee, injured back, and severe bruises and scratches throughout his body. …

He was then taken to the police station and charged with resisting arrest.

All criminal charges against Mr. Lloyd were later dismissed by the District Attorney’s office.

Lloyd has reached a settlement with the the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, but it has not yet been finalized. The city’s Police Commission deliberated the case in closed session on Dec. 9, at the same meeting where they heard about four hours of public comment on the Mario Woods shooting.

August was awarded the Police Department’s bronze Medal of Valor in 2011, the SF Weekly reports.

Cuevas faces a federal civil rights suit arising from a 2009 incident when he was an officer with the Antioch Police Department. Contra Costa County prosecutors say Cuevas opened fire on a car driven by Barry White Jr. after White tried to run him down.

White, who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after the incident, wound up being shot in the head, ear and back. In a 2011 complaint filed against the city of Antioch, its Police Department and several officers, including Cuevas, White said the officer fired without provocation and without identifying himself. In fact, White alleged, Cuevas had “tried to brutally murder three African-American men.”

From the lawsuit:

The three men [including White] had their backs turned to the officer when he shot them through the rear driver’s side window and rear windshield of Mr. White’s vehicle. Mr. White sustained gunshot wounds to his head and ear.

The men managed to escape from the vehicle.

Officer Cuevas pursued the men. He shot Mr. White in the back and left him for dead in a pool of blood. Mr. Anderson narrowly escaped death when a bullet pierced the peak of his cap. Mr. Longsworth was shot in the back.

Mr. White was found by officers of the Antioch Police Department 90 minutes later in a pool of blood and transported to the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek.

Mr. White suffered gunshot wounds to his head, ear, and back as a direct result of Officer Nicholas Cuevas’ use of deadly force.

White is currently jailed in San Francisco, having been charged with two counts of murder in a harrowing 2013 gun and knife attack.

White’s federal civil rights lawsuit is on hold while his criminal charges are adjudicated.

San Francisco did not respond to KQED’s inquiries about the years of service for each of the officers involved in the Woods shooting. SF Weekly, citing the department, reports August has served for eight years, Seto and Santos for seven, Cuevas for four, and Phillips for 11 months.

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