SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Police Department has released the names of the five officers involved in the fatal shooting of Mario Woods, the 26-year-old African American man shot Dec. 2. The release of the names comes on the heels of the Woods’ family announcement that they will file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Francisco. The officers who fired their weapons in the Dec. 2 shooting are Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips, according to the SFPD.
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the Woods family, held a press conference at the City College of San Francisco’s southeast campus Dec. 11 to announce the lawsuit and to release a previously unreleased third video of the shooting. During the press conference Burris went frame by frame through the video to show that excessive use of force resulted in the victim’s death.
“Mario’s arms were at his sides,” Burris said at the press conference. “He was not committing a dangerous act. He was not threatening police officers at the time. He was walking slowly. It was the police officer that created confrontation when he jumped in front of him.”
Burris went further to say that he was insulted by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr’s defense of the five officers involved in the shooting: “[T]hat he would make a comment to justify and support the police officers’ conduct so quickly, when in the video he had, had he looked closer, he would see that the person’s hand did not come up until after the officers had shot at him.”
A statement by the SFPD shortly after the shooting read, “Fearing serious injury or death, officers fired their department-issued handguns at the suspect.” Suhr said at an earlier press conference that, “[Woods] had already demonstrated, by committing a felony aggravated assault, that he was a danger to others, so he could not be allowed to move away from the scene.”
Burris’ office released a statement last Friday that connected Woods’ death and the Laquan McDonald and Ron Johnson shootings in Chicago. The “shooting death of Mario,” the statement read, “is eerily similar to the recent police shooting deaths in Chicago of [Laquan McDonald] and Ron Johnson, who were both shot in the back while moving away from police. Likewise in San Francisco, Police Officers shot Mario Woods over 20 times as he too was walking away… Mario was used as target practice by reckless and malicious San Francisco police officers… the killing is an outrage and an affront to the African American community…Here in San Francisco, African Americans and all other fair minded individuals are dismayed by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr’s efforts to justify the shootings with a bogus interpretation of one of the cellphone videos that captured the incident.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s office released a statement Dec. 7 that read, “I have directed Chief Suhr to take specific, immediate action to ensure they have more options to resolve situations with the minimum use of force… Since last week, the Chief is equipping officers with protective shields, instituting significant changes to instruction for when and how officers use their firearms, and increasing mandatory, recurring training on de-escalation skills.” Last Friday it was reported that Suhr issued a bulletin that requires officers to file a report whenever they point a firearm at someone and to justify their actions to a supervisor.
Yet, it appears many San Francisco residents aren’t convinced.
On the day the Woods family held its press conference, over 100 elementary through high- school-aged students walked out of their classes to march through the streets.
The students, some accompanied by teachers who brought students there as a field trip to participate in the actions, marched through the Mission District of San Francisco to City Hall.
“We’re tired of the SFPD killing black people,” Taariq Norbert, a 12-year-old 7th grader told the press.
“I wonder every night, what if I’m next? Honestly, I can say I’m an innocent young adult… As a person of color, I don’t have a second chance. We minorities are seen as dangerous,” said another demonstrator.
The investigation into Woods’ death is ongoing as the five officers involved are currently on paid administrative leave. The San Francisco district attorney’s office and the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints are investigating the shooting in addition to the San Francisco Police Department. A copy of the complaint filed by the Woods family can be found here: http://johnburrislegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/mariowoods-complaint.pdf.
Photo: Mike Koozmin/AP