The San Francisco District Attorney decided to release some important news late Friday afternoon, likely in the hope that you wouldn’t pay much attention over the holiday weekend. So Bernalwood brings you this news today, in the hope that you are now paying very, very close attention…
Last week, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that the four SFPD officers who participated in the March, 2014 officer-involved shooting death of Cortland resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill will not face criminal charges as a result of the incident.
Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes DA Gascón’s report:
Gascón’s report said all four officers had “continued to believe their lives were in danger … until Mr. Nieto’s head and weapon went down.”
The four — Lt. Jason Sawyer and Officers Roger Morse, Richard Schiff and Nathan Chew — had responded to witness reports that Nieto, a 28-year-old Mission resident, had a gun and was acting erratically on March 21.
The officers “saw what appeared to be a gun as soon as they encountered him on a hill,” the district attorney’s report said. “Mr. Nieto refused to obey orders to show his hands and, instead, immediately drew and pointed his weapon at the officers.”
At a news conference, Gascón added, “Given the circumstances, I’m not sure this was a preventable shooting.” In such instances, he said, “a shooting is likely to occur. It is lawful. It is clearly constitutional, and I’m not sure there is much that could have been done to prevent it.” […]
Gascón’s report to [SFPD Chief Greg Suhr] provided the most detailed account by authorities of the shooting. It said that on March 3, less than three weeks before he was killed, Nieto was accused of firing a Taser at the estranged husband of a friend.
On the day of the police shooting, prosecutors said, several dog walkers at Bernal Heights Park reported feeling threatened by Nieto. One witness told investigators Nieto had pulled what looked like a pistol from his holster and pointed it at his dog — the animal had taken interest in a bag of chips Nieto was eating — before realizing it was a Taser.
“When he turned it into profile and aimed it at my dog, that’s when I could tell that it was a Taser just because of the size of the muzzle area,” the witness said.
The witness said he begged Nieto not to shoot his dog with the Taser, telling him the dog wasn’t aggressive and “just wants some chips,” according to the report. Nieto aimed the Taser at the witness and yelled expletives, the report said, before the witness left the park, while warning others about Nieto.
After Schiff and Sawyer arrived, in uniform, and ordered Nieto to show his hands, Nieto allegedly walked toward them, lifted his sweatshirt to expose a black holster, and shouted back at the officers, “Let me see your hands!” Nieto then “squared off with them in a defensive stance,” the report said, drew what turned out to be the Taser and pointed it directly at officers.
Schiff and Sawyer, who was then a sergeant, opened fire, authorities said. Nieto fell to the ground with his hands in front of him, police said. Schiff reported seeing a red light coming from the object Nieto was carrying and “thought it might be a laser sight. Both officers believed Mr. Nieto was still trying to fire back at them, and continued to fire,” the report said.
For better or worse, Gascón’s long-overdue report now stands as the most detailed official chronology of the events that took place on Bernal Hill on March 21, 2014. You can read the complete text of Gascón’s report to SFPD Chief Suhr right here (PDF); It paints an unsettling picture of the scene that evening. An excerpt:
Responding on behalf of Neighbor Alex Nieto’s family and friends at the Justice4AlexNieto website, Ben Bac Sierra says DA Gascón’s report is not credible:
Scholarship student and security guard Alex Nieto never pointed a taser at San Francisco Police Officers Sawyer and Schiff. There is at least one witness who saw everything and emphatically confirms that Alex Nieto never pointed a taser at officers. This witness was never interviewed for the district attorney’s report.
But for one moment let’s forget the witness. The district attorney’s report accepts the police department narrative: two veteran San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) police officers have their weapons drawn aiming directly at Alex Nieto who is eating a bag of chips walking down the hill. Both officers KNOW he has a firearm. These two READY police officers then allow Alex to square off with them, reach into his holster (they KNOW he has a gun), and they allow Alex to point this “gun” directly at them BEFORE they finally make the decision to start shooting at him 59 times.
This tale is ridiculous and unbelievable, yet they expect us to accept it.
There was no reason for Alex to have been shot at 59 times! This entire sham is a cover up to hide the SFPD’s incompetence, lack of fire discipline, and illegal and intimidating investigation. They will not take responsibility for killing an innocent, promising young man, Alex Nieto, our brother.
While no charges will be filed against the SFPD officers, other aspects of Neighbor Alex Nieto’s case are ongoing. Mike Koozmin from the San Francisco Examiner describes the next steps:
Gascon said today that he recognizes that Nieto’s death was a tragedy and has offered to meet with Nieto’s family members, but that they have so far declined to meet with him. While the district attorney’s office has concluded that the police officers believed they were in imminent danger when they discharged their weapon, Gascon wrote in his letter to the chief of police that his office did not examine issues such as compliance with the policies and procedures of the San Francisco Police Department or ways to improve training or tactics. The letter also does not address any issues related to civil liability.
Gascon has also recommended the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for further investigation.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the Nieto family against the city for violation of Nieto’s civil rights, on the grounds that police officers allegedly used excessive force against him, is pending.
IMAGE: Photo illustration by Telstar Logistics