UPDATED: Man Killed During SFPD Confrontation on Bernal Hill Identified; Community Meeting Announced

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The man killed on Bernal Hill during a confrontation with the SFPD on Friday has been identified as Alejandro Nieto, 28, of San Francisco.

Vivian Ho at the SF Chronicle reports:

Police officials said the officers were investigating reports of a man with a gun in Bernal Heights Park when they encountered Nieto on a paved pedestrian path on the north slope of the park.

Nieto appeared to draw a weapon, and at least two officers began firing at him, said police Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka. Some witnesses and friends of Nieto believe he had a stun gun.

Tomioka said she didn’t know if Nieto had exchanged fire with the officers, but said a weapon was discovered close to his body. Police have not said what the weapon was.

Residents and park goers reported seeing a man, possibly with a holstered weapon, behaving strangely on the hill just prior to the shooting.

One witness, Isaac McGowan, said his wife may have seen the man as she ran up the hill just before the shooting.

“Two guys walking toward her warned her that he was wearing a holstered gun,” McGowan said. “She looked again and he was air boxing. She ran down the hill away from him and warned everyone walking up.”

Another witness, who declined to give his name, said he was walking his dog in the park just after 7 p.m. when the dog came upon a man eating potato chips. The dog got excited, scaring the man, who jumped up on a bench and stared acting erratically.

According to the witness, the man pulled out a pistol-type stun gun and pointed it at the dog, leading the witness to call the dog back and yell at the man.

The man then stated “flexing,” yelling profanities and threatening him, the witness said. The witness said he quickly left the area, went home and called police.

Possessing Tasers and other stun guns is legal in California, with the exception of convicted felons, drug addicts and people who have misused the devices in the past.

Friends of Nieto say he had experience with stun guns but did not own handgun.

Nieto, known as Alex to his friends, was known as a nonviolent and compassionate young man who worked to better his community, whether through volunteer work or through his Buddhism, said his friend Jonathan Bonato, 53.

Bonato met Nieto in 2008, and worked with him and the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International on setting up the Victory Over Violence exhibit in the Bayview neighborhood.

Nieto once worked at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, fighting for youth and against social injustice in the area where he spent much of his life, Bonato said.

“He was an encouragement and inspiration to me,” Bonato said. “I just never in my wildest imagination connected the story on Friday with Alex.”

Bonato said Nieto also held a security job for some time. Nieto also studied criminal justice at City College.

Bonato said the officers’ actions that night have Nieto’s friends “definitely concerned.” They will be holding a vigil at the spot where he died at 5 p.m. Monday night.

UPDATE: Captain Tim Falvey from Ingleside Station has accounted plans to hold a community meeting tomorrow, Tuesday evening, to discuss the incident:

The will be a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, 3125 Cesar Chavez. The meeting will be to discuss the officer involved shooting of Friday, March 21, 2014 at Bernal Heights Park.

IMAGE: KTVU screen grab, Friday night.

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39 Responses to UPDATED: Man Killed During SFPD Confrontation on Bernal Hill Identified; Community Meeting Announced

  1. mikeyno says:

    Todd,

    I found an Alejandro Nieto, about the right age, living at 445 Cortland. Don’t know if it was his current address.

    Michael

  2. Mark R says:

    Vigil at 5 pm this evening – From the SF Chronicle article linked above:

    “Nieto once worked at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, fighting for youth and against social injustice in the area where he spent much of his life, Bonato said… the officers’ actions that night have Nieto’s friends “definitely concerned.” They will be holding a vigil at the spot where he died at 5 p.m. Monday night.

  3. Brian says:

    We live in an ever growing police state, if you don’t think so you’re not paying attention.

    What happened in our park is not an uncommon storyline.

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/militarization-police

  4. S says:

    something is not adding up here… looking forward for more details.

    • BP says:

      Yeah, the juxtaposition of

      “The man then stated “flexing,” yelling profanities and threatening him, the witness said.”

      and

      “Nieto, known as Alex to his friends, was known as a nonviolent and compassionate young man”

      is a little odd.

      • Rusty H says:

        Nice guys can freak out too. For all we know, he was tired, over-caffinated and just broke up with someone. That can trigger that kind of behavior. Unfortunately, SFPD had no back story on this guy, and likely would have acted differently if the initial report was “there is a normally nice guy currently freaking out and acting all agro”.

        Police need more people on staff who are the “negotiator” types, who try to talk down the person before the situation escalates. Police responders always seem to be lacking in mental health skills and don’t give any benefit of doubt, which results in situations like this.

  5. Derek says:

    Personally, I would not call the police unless I thought that a life was in danger. Police will shoot to kill first and ask questions later, as we have seen over and over. They don’t know how to cope with the mentally ill and won’t use non-lethal force. It’s very sad.

    • GP says:

      What’s very sad is that there are mentally ill going around with guns. How do you stop that? When the police confronted him, he withdrew his weapon. What are the police to do? Get shot and die?? Then it would be a different tragedy. Without the police, who do you have to confront these folks? I’m thankful for the police.

      • Mark R says:

        It is not a given that “When the police confronted him, he withdrew his weapon.” Alejandro Nieto’s “weapon” in any case was apparently a taser, which according to his family members at the vigil this evening, was equipment he carried (legally) because he was a security guard on his way to work.

        It is clearly unfair to conflate “mentally ill going around with guns” with what appears to have happened in this case. I too can be thankful for the police in some circumstances, but not when they (apparently) unload as many as 14 bullets towards a young guy who was scared by a dog while sitting on a hill in his neighborhood, eating a burrito before continuing on to work.

        In some of their comments this evening family members, who are clearly hurting badly right now, linked what happened Friday evening to the race, class and socio-economic changes occurring in Bernal. Looking at things from their perspective, I can understand this, although as we read in Orlando’s comments on this matter earlier, police have never been considered a friend of young working class men of color in the neighborhood. Maybe the readiness to shoot rather than just administer the kind of beatings that Orlando referred to are as much a product of the militarization of police forces across the country as they are of changing demographics.

        In any case, Alejandro Nieto was a neighbor of ours. From what we heard this evening from his sister at the place where he was shot dead, he was a scholarship student in criminal justice at City College, a longtime volunteer with various groups in Bernal and in the Mission, and a good son and brother, among other things. So it seems he was not only our neighbor, but a good neighbor at that.

        This tragedy is a personal one for his family first and foremost, but its a tragedy for Bernal Heights too. I feel really bad that it happened.

      • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

        Mark: Very well said.

      • Rusty H says:

        Very thoughtful (and through-provoking) response, Mark. thank you.

      • ann says:

        If you read the article, you would find that Alejandro Nieto was not mentally ill. At any rate, it is an excessive and appalling use of force to unload 14 shots into a single individual.

  6. Crumpetilicious says:

    Alejandro was one of my students at Horace Mann Middle School back in the 90’s. Sweet kid. The police are out of control shooting anything they consider a threat. They need renewed training in dealing with individuals having psychiatric crises.

  7. orlando66 says:

    Mark,

    I too just came home from the vigil. I sat here alone thinking of all the crimes I have heard about in our neighborhood going as far back as the nights of the beatings I recently shared. This has been the worst. And next time, this easily could be me.

    It wasn’t long before a sinister realization hit me. The only one murder, the single one violent execution of one of our best, most proper, hard working, scholarly, civil serving neighbors resulted from guns in the hands of the police. This violent killing, the only one I am aware of on this hill in my forty-eight years of life came as a direct result of a handgun in the hands of those coming out from behind the same doors that read, “To Serve And Protect.”

    It is the only shooting/killing I know of on our hill. One shooting in all of my life living here. Fourteen bullets penetrated his lifeless body of what once was a student of criminal justice at our community college with scholarship.

    “Unstable?” How? Nieto never fired one shot. He couldn’t have. A taser cannot fire a single bullet. He was wearing it because after the burrito, he was going to report to “El Torro” where he had been working as a security guard at the door.

    This may be one big important reason why the police has not reached out to his family since they shot him dead. They have been keeping low with no explaining, no details, no nothing. What can they possibly say to his family or the public when they have nothing on Nieto? The media would have a field day with them! Of course they have been saying that Nieto drew his “gun.” They just killed an innocent man that can no longer deny the false charges!

    I certainly want to hear what the police will tell us tomorrow. Surely, they will say what ever they have already “made up.” They have the advantage of no one witnessing the execution. And since the only one who did is no longer with us, who is going call them out on their lies?

  8. shelley peery says:

    Even if he was acting erratically and air boxing, the police seemed to be advised of that ahead of time, so they should have deployed a team trained in psych behavior. Plus, it seems like the guy who called them told them he had a taser. So why would they care if he “pulled” his taser??!? It’s like the police themselves are incapable of handling mild complexities. This is why community-based policing is important. Imagine if they would have recognized him! Meanwhile, I wonder why he was acting like that?? My heart goes out to the families involved! And friends and neighbors.

    • Oscar says:

      I been persecuted at any given job to trigger
      mental behavior to greatly discredit me as a
      Chicano from the mission.Stories of few that I known
      whom were discredited on up graded position
      due to being known to as a gang member
      without solid proff.Whites are known to
      recruit and smoke screen since the beginning.
      That’s how they control and rule.Through this media
      pressure it helps establish a equal ness of all races
      and not just whites.Especially those whom
      brain wash the use of other race to establish
      their misbehavior as our community leaders
      but their master plan shall fail.Project Flicker ring a bell?
      Pentagon federal employee whom can sell out Americans
      ruining our way of peaceful living by creating
      And manlipulating wars on cilvians.19000 per year
      military rapes each year that at least 70 per day
      all mainly white male as sexual preditors.
      They can sell out this country.I urge you white to stop those
      Federal officers selling out due to racist of take over and destroy us.
      Think about our children future.

  9. 3KsOnParkStreet says:

    Thank You SFPD for keeping us safe!

  10. orlando66 says:

    He was “not” air boxing. This is turning out to be nothing more than a hyped up and “erratic” description from an “unstable” 911 caller! The one last witness who actually saw Nieto has kept to his accurate “he was not a threat, he was eating a burrito” account and has yet to admit anything to the contrary.

  11. Janet Franks says:

    I have read this report and comments. I am anxious to hear what the police have to say. What possible explanation could they have for killing a man like they did. What has happened to a
    peaceful settlement with shooting being the last resort?
    If they had taken the time to assess the situation along with listening to the 911 calls and check with witnesses. They could then approach the man perhaps with a loud speaker, ask him what he
    was doing, and did he in fact have a gun? It was still light out and nothing was happening except
    the circumstances may have been a little out of the norm, Like a dog jumping up on someone eating a burrito the person jumping away in a protect mode.
    Is this what we want from our police? To be afraid to call them for fear of this happening?
    My heart goes out to the family and loved one’s of Mr Nieto. May his killing not be in vain.
    May the good Lord bring healing to the brokenhearted.

  12. robmokry says:

    Agreed! i fault the person calling SFPD and stating he had a gun and causing the hysteria. It could have been a leather holster holding a PDA and he was practicing Ti Chi…..

    • nsfw says:

      What a load of shit. It doesn’t matter if a person calls 911 and says that someone has a bomb in the park. It’s up to the police to asses the situation.
      You’re telling me the police showed up and said put your hands in the air where we can see them and Nieto complied and they shot him? Or they didn’t say anything and just blew him away?
      The SFPD are supposed to be the trained professionals in these matters and it’s up to law abiding citizens to obey police orders. We really don’t know who is at fault here but blaming the person who called 911 is really weak.
      I know people have an agenda and want to say that there are too many white people here who make $100,000 or more and that’s the reason this happened but there are people of all different walks of life in this neighborhood who make a good living and there are plenty who don’t. There are plenty of hispanic and black members of the SFPD too so to call this some race related issue is really short sighted.

      • NDK says:

        I agree with you, nsfw. I think that it’s wrong to blame the 911 caller, especially if you did not witness what that person saw. If I were to see someone pointing anything that remotely looks like a weapon at anyone or anything, you bet I would call 911. I didn’t hesitate to call the police last year when I saw a man at Precita Park chasing dogs and people with a device that was shooting off sparks. Hell if I knew what it was. There is nothing wrong with trusting your instincts and acting as a concerned community member.

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  14. JP says:

    uggh…this is the ugly side of blogs. Only those that were there truly know what happened. Judge and jury…please stop.

  15. Pamela says:

    Yes; it is a shame that someone was shot. However, something that Nieto was doing scared the witness; doubt it was him eating a burrito. Come on downtown, there are hundreds of street people who one moment are calm, collected; the next moment hitting, screaming, causing problems.
    Clearly people are forgetting when Cortland Ave was the Wild West; not too long ago either. Between the different gangs up on the hill, there was non-stop violence. It was a shooting gallery. For someone to say that in the 40+ years that he has lived in BH, that there was no violence, shootings, killings has blinders on.

  16. MissionNativePORVIDA says:

    I don’t even know how to respond to some of these comments. Just reading these comments makes me sad because it just confirms that there are so many people that have such entitlement issues and that if you are not a person of color you will NEVER understand!!!!! What makes me even sadder is that this City that I love so much because of it’s people is QUICKLY changing to a CITY of bunch of ENTITLED AND UNEMPATHETIC PEOPLE!!!!!

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      Thank you for your comment, new visitor to this community. You are welcome here.

      Your comments reveal your own entitlement issues. Since this is your first comment here, I shall assume know nothing of the people who have previously shared comments here, and you likewise know nothing of their skin color, or how long they have lived here. Yet you feel entitled to make sweeping accusations without addressing any of the specific points raised in this discussion. How unfortunate.

      Perhaps you are somehow qualified to pass judgement on members of a community you know very little about. But frankly, I really doubt that.

      Please join us in conversation. Please spare us your ignorant sanctimony.

    • Bernalese, man says:

      I’m confused. Are the entitled people those who have lived here a long time but can no longer afford to live here, or are they they new people who can afford to live here?

  17. Otis Sistrunk says:

    I attended the town hall this evening. It went on for 4 hours. The rage and pain were sustained and palpable. I went out of communal curiosity mostly–I don’t know the young man who died but wanted to feel a significant response and to learn more–and ended up in tears for much of it.

    A few things struck me:

    – This tragedy is going to galvanize movements for change–with police conduct, in our neighborhood, and around the City. San Francisco has its Oscar Grant, sadly. But hopefully something good with come from this human disaster (which is also the gracious hope of Alex’s poised and introspective father).

    – There were some good (and not overly idealistic) suggestions made about how police can work differently, and also how they can interact with a community that often does not trust them. First, have officers wear cameras (or some kind of video equipment) in order to record their work, something that may be especially helpful with a branch of public servants who so many citizens feel are able to act with impunity, supported steadfastly by their colleagues and so rarely accountable to the public (even though we help pay their salaries). Another one: At town halls and other public meetings, police should come unarmed, and maybe even in street clothes–gestures that will help defuse an aura of intimidation and authority that police often exude to non-law-enforcement folks (the rest of us).

    – The police response–with such great violence–seems to point to several things that could have been done differently, and that there was likely an excessive use of force by nervous officers. Alex was shot, reportedly, from 75 feet away. For someone “acting erratically,” that is probably too far a distance to actually hit a target. The police did not seem to try to “disable” him by striking him in the leg or some place where a shot would not be fatal; they are sharpshooters who aimed and shot him in the torso, apparently more than a dozen times. (And that was after they had spoken to him, so there could have been time to square up and take good aim.) The police also could not tell the difference between a gun and a taser–yes, from a significant distance, but there are distinguishing features (like color) that could possibly have been seen, as it was still perfectly light out at the time. Also, the taser was giving off a beam of light, which is somewhat unusual for a firearm, though some guns have this functionality as well.

    – As pointed out at the end of the town hall–when the victim’s father finally spoke–the police conduct since the shooting so far has been simply shameful, inflicting further insult and torment on a severely injured family. The family, four days after Alex’s death, still have not seen his body. After the shooting occurred, the family did not know for nearly an entire day, and were only informed after police came to them on Saturday, asking numerous questions about Alex (after the questioning, they told them he was dead). During that same visit, the officers asked if they could search Alex’s room, but the family refused to let them enter. The officers claimed that Alex did not have anything in his pockets, but they searched well enough to find his keys and confiscate his vehicle, which is still in police custody.

    – While many who spoke bemoaned “gentrification” and the changes in the community, including displacement, behind their pained words was clearly a deeper message that we can all understand and which several people said outright: Get to know your neighbors when you can, of all kinds, and understand the range of cultures that surround you, even if you may not be from similar traditions or backgrounds. That does not mean that you will know everyone, including a young man who may have been in a bad mood and who was in the wrong place to draw suspicion to himself, but it shows respect and openness that is only good for fostering community. If a neighbor has a party, go if you’re invited, and invite neighbors over who you have not had a chance to get to know (as they may accept your warmth, with enthusiasm); say hi to someone who you see walking down your street all the time but still don’t know; if there’s someone with a bus parked near your property (this is always handy to pull out of the toolbox, since NIMBY is the son of misplaced restlessness), think if it really does any damage to the community if it is there or not (and if it’s not parked illegally, butt out).

    – What else did I learn? Do you see that dark blue Lincoln that has been parked on my street, unmoved, for weeks and weeks, the one that I know is not going to budge unless the Big One hits? Yeah, that one. I will not call it in to the parking police, since I know it belongs to an aging, blue-collar worker who lives across from me in the most crooked and modest house on the block, one that may be swept off its roots by a fierce wind someday. The man, who walks with a severe limp, has been here far longer than I have, and he will still be here once I leave. My sense is that he has enough going on in his life already, what with all the changes, and even with those things that are staying the same.

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