Maybe you’ve already heard, but there are Alex Nieto stencils and posters on Cortland sidewalks on just about every block.
Yes, your Bernalwood editor noticed this as well. The posters remind us that four months after Alex Nieto was killed, justice has not been well served.
Neighbor Alex Nieto was killed during an officer-involved shooting on Bernal Hill during the evening of March 24, 2014. Yet apart from a very raw, very unverified set of assertions presented by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr during a tense community meeting a few days after the shooting, precious little has been learned about the circumstances that resulted in the 28 year-old Bernal resident’s death.
Per San Francisco procedure when an officer-involved shooting takes place, an investigation is currently underway to determine what happened on Bernal Hill that night, and how events culminated in Nieto’s death. Bernalwood had assumed patience is required until such time as the investigation can be completed and the conclusions shared with the public. But we assumed wrong.
To get an update on the status of the investigation, Bernalwood spoke with the SFPD’s Press Office this week, where a helpful representative patiently explained how the process of inquiry works in the case of an officer-involved shooting death. Here’s what we were told…
In the case of Alex Nieto’s death, there are several, parallel investigations underway:
- An SFPD administrative investigation
– A criminal investigation
– The District Attorney’s investigation (which includes a report from the Medical Examiner)
– An investigation by the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC)
Once each of these investigations is complete, the findings are submitted to the Police Commission. The Police Commission receives the findings in closed session, and the results are not made public. The results are shared with the family of the victim, however, “as a personal matter, not subject to disclosure,” we were told.
The findings forwarded to the Police Commission also include a determination from the DA’s office as to whether the shooting was lawful or unlawful — ie. whether or not it was the result of a criminal or negligent act on the part of the officers involved.
So when will this not-for-public-consumption set of findings reach the Police Commision? That’s unknown, but the SFPD rep says “it takes a while.” Every case is different, but this one involved multiple officers, which makes it more complicated, so it may take long as a year to finalize all the reports. Or maybe less. Or quite possibly more.
(Tragedies are not created equal, so this is only for comparison’s sake, but… The Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash at SFO happened on July 7, 2013. It involved one highly complex Boeing 777 airliner, 307 people on the plane, multiple first-response agencies, two nations with jurisdiction over the case, and three fatalities. The final report on the cause of the Asiana crash was publicly released less than a year later, on June 24, 2014. Just for comparison.)
Yet if prolonged timing in the Nieto investigation is understandable — first and foremost, it’s essential to get the facts right — the closed-door treatment of the result is disturbing.
In addition, pieces of the investigation that are supposed to be released — such as the Medical Examiner’s report — remain undisclosed.
Adriana Camarena, a representative of The Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Committee created by Nieto’s family and friends, explains:
Basically, the internal SFPD police investigation and the District Attorney’s criminal investigation are both awaiting the delivery of the autopsy report from the Medical Examiner’s Office. Without the report, neither party can conclude their investigation.
There is an outrageous delay in the delivery of an already concluded autopsy report. The D.A. told the Nieto Family that it is normal for two or three years to transpire before delivery of an autopsy report, but these reports are expedited depending on political pressures. (Consider the case of the German tourist shot in 2010, and the fact that six men have already been charged and a seventh recently arrested in 2014.)
D.A. Gascón promised the Nieto Family that he would expedite the autopsy report, but we have had no updates from him or his office. As you know, D.A. Gascón (appointed by Gavin Newsom) is the former Chief of Police of San Francisco and a career police officer (Mesa, Arizona and L.A.P.D.) We are concerned that he will avoid taking Alex Nieto’s case due to possible conflict of interests. It is up to him to take action and prove differently.
For that same reason, we are asking supporters to petition the US General Attorney for an outside federal investigation into the case of Alex Nieto. We demand the truth and untampered evidence for the trials to be delivered expeditiously.
Also, the D.A. promised the Nieto Family that he would investigate the shooting and any police conduct in the aftermath of the shooting that could result in criminal charges (e.g. entering and searching the family home without a warrant, taking and stripping the inside of Alex’s car without a warrant, interrogating the family about Alex under false pretense before telling them that he was killed by SFPD.)
Bernalwood called the District Attorney’s to verify the above, but our call was not returned.
So. If you want to know what actually happened during that warm, terrible evening last March on Bernal Hill, you should expect a very long wait for factual findings that you won’t be allowed to review, but which will ultimately be decided by panel of police commissioners meeting in closed session. That’s what justice in Neighbor Alex Nieto’s case looks like.
It’s something to keep in mind when you see those stencils and handbills on Cortland Avenue.
PHOTOS: Neighbor Jim