KTVU: Rally for man killed by SFPD held prior to police commission meeting

Original article can be found here.

Reporter – Paul Chambers

– A rally demanding justice for a man fatally shot by San Francisco police last week in the city’s Bayview District is taking place Wednesday evening prior to a planned San Francisco Police Commission Meeting, where the police chief is expected to discuss the department’s widely criticized use of force policies.

The police commission meeting went into a sudden recess around 7:45 p.m. At that time a member of the commission could be heard urging sheriff’s deputies to back away from the woman in question. As of 8 p.m. this evening, the meeting had not yet resumed.

The rally, scheduled for 5 p.m. outside San Francisco City Hall, was geared at demanding justice for Mario Woods, a 26-year-old San Francisco man who was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife when five San Francisco police officers opened fire on him on Dec. 2.

City Hall was filled with people wanting to come inside for the meeting. KTVU’s Paul Chambers reported once the room was at capacity, no one else was allowed inside, but those who were in line to speak during public comment would be allowed.

Vigils and protests following Woods’ death have emphasized the public’s desire for police officers to de-escalate violent situations rather than using lethal force. The Full Rights, Empowerment and Equality San Francisco (FREE SF) coalition, comprised of organizations that condemn police violence, including
the Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Causa Justa Just Cause, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and others, released a statement Wednesday condemning the officer-involved shooting.

FREE SF states that they are outraged after seeing the videos posted online of officers shooting numerous rounds at close range at Woods.

“The killing of people of color — and especially black people — at the hands of law enforcement is a grave national crisis, and this tragic case is further proof that San Francisco is no exception,” the group wrote.

“At a time when African American community members make up a tragically diminishing percent of San Francisco’s overall population — but about half of the city’s jail population — it is clear that deep structural change is urgently needed,” the group said.

Police said Woods was a suspect in a stabbing of a victim who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital at about 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 2 and said he had been stabbed near the corner of Third Street and Le Conte Avenue.

An officer spotted Woods in the area about 40 minutes later, prompting the confrontation.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association union issued a statement Tuesday defending the five unnamed officers who opened fire on Woods.

SFPOA president Martin Halloran said citizens and “organizations hostile to the police” are jumping to conclusions based on short videos posted online showing the fatal shooting of Woods.

Police said officers at first deployed less-lethal “bean bag” rounds and pepper spray at Woods, who had a knife and dropped to one knee but did not fall, police said.

The online videos show Woods on Third Street near Fitzgerald Avenue, near a T-Third San Francisco Municipal Railway stop.

He is standing against a building, surrounded on two sides by officers with their guns drawn. He motions toward the officers, staggers, and then tries to walk away along the building as one of the officers moves into
his path.

Numerous shots are then heard and Woods falls to the ground as the gunshots continue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Thursday, Woods’ family members, Supervisor Malia Cohen and community members gathered at the place of the shooting for a vigil to remember Woods’ life.

On Friday, at a heated community meeting with police Chief Greg Suhr, residents called for Suhr’s resignation over the shooting, maintaining that the incident is only the most recent in a flurry of San Francisco police scandals, including text messages between officers containing racial epithets disclosed during a federal criminal case over police misconduct.

The San Francisco Police Department has not yet released the names of the officers who opened fire, but have said they will do so within 10 days of Woods’ death.

Halloran, Lee and Suhr have all called for officers to be equipped with Taser stun guns, an idea that has failed several times amid public controversy over the safety of the devices, especially for people with weak
hearts.

The commission is expected to take up the issue again at this evening’s scheduled meeting.

Following calls from the community to de-escalate police confrontations, Suhr said he is equipping police officers with 60 protective shields — 10 for each of the department’s six districts — and is looking
toward increasing training for officers in de-escalation tactics, joining the national program Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force.

The San Francisco Police Commission meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. inside City Hall.