SAN FRANCISCO – Less than a week after a graphic video of Laquan McDonald’s murder was released to the public, another video has gone viral on social media showing what appears to be the police shooting of a young African-American man. On the afternoon of Dec. 2, officers of the San Francisco police department in the Bayview neighborhood here gunned down Mario Woods. Woods, reportedly shot fifteen times by approximately five officers, died at the scene.
A San Francisco Police Department press release stated that officers were responding to a reported stabbing when they encountered Woods armed with a knife. The release claims that after beanbag guns and pepper spray did not subdue Woods, he began walking toward an officer. The release then states, “at this point, fearing serious injury or death, officers fired their department issued handguns at the suspect.”
Police Chief Greg Suhr said at a 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.”
Yet, as the now viral video has begun circulating, detractors such as San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi have come forward with a different view. Adachi told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It does not look like the officer who fired the fatal shots was in immediate danger of being killed. [He] can move back and at least order the person to the ground or use some other sort of defensive maneuver, rather than using a gun and shooting him point-blank.”
Shawn Richard, a spokesperson for the Woods family and a member of Brothers Against Guns, spoke to reporters. “The family,” he said, “is at a loss for words. The mom simply can’t believe that her son was shot that many times and he did not pose a threat. He never pointed the knife in their direction.” Noting that Woods had just been released from prison, Richard said he was about to start a new job and “just trying to do the right thing.”
In the initial video, which was first posted on the popular site Instagram, Woods can be seen standing against a wall as five officers are lined up opposite him. Woods is then seen walking along the wall where one of the officers then moves into his path. The camera moves away just as gunshots and screams are heard ringing out. Another, slightly longer, video that was discovered today shows the officers first shooting Woods with the bean bag guns and then seconds later firing their weapons as Woods falls to the ground.
Those who were in the neighborhood where the shooting took place noted the chaos that followed. Quinci Woods (no relation to the victim Woods), a local actor and student in the Bay Area explained, “I knew something had happened when the 29 bus said it wasn’t even running at commuting hours. The traffic on 19th Avenue was backed up… It was a weird feeling in the air that something had happened.”
Immediately following Thursday night reports of the shooting, local organizations, including the Black Youth Project 100 and Black Lives Matter Bay Area, organized a protest and vigil to at the scene of the shooting. The description for the Facebook event states, “Today a half dozen SFPD officers executed a Black man in broad daylight. We demand justice NOW!!!!”
The ACLU of Northern California released a statement late Thursday. The statement urged District Attorney Gascón “to conduct a swift investigation and bring all appropriate charges against the officers involved,” and for “Mayor Lee and the SF Board of Supervisors to hold the involved officers and SFPD management accountable.”
The organization tied Woods’ killing to the national upward trend in the extrajudicial killings of young African Americans, saying “Recently, the nation has seen far too many Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement, including the familiar names of Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Aiyana Jones. Their deaths have placed the excessive use of force against communities of color in the spotlight. Too often, police treat communities like enemies-a problem that disproportionately impacts people of color.”
The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy will be conducted on Thursday to document the official cause of Woods’ death. The office has yet to release the number of bullets that Woods was struck with. The five officers involved in the shooting are currently on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues.
Photo: Mario Woods, screen grab from video.