Hundreds of protestors crowded into a San Francisco police commission meeting at City Hall Wednesday night, demanding the firing of SF police Chief Greg Suhr and calling for officers involved in the shooting death of Mario Woods to be charged with murder.
Woods, a 26-year-old Black man, was killed by police last Wednesday in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point, a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Multiple videos captured by bystanders show Woods, a stabbing suspect, cornered against the wall of a building holding what police say is a knife and surrounded by six officers, who all have their guns drawn and pointed at him.
As Woods attempted to walk away from the group of officers, one moved to block his path and the officers fired their weapons at close range while he was still leaning against the wall, ultimately killing him at the scene.
The officers fired at least 15 times. Several bystanders say Woods was experiencing a mental breakdown.
Since his death, Bayview residents and activists from around the Bay Area have held various actions, protesting the officers’ failure to de-escalate the situation, racist policing in a city whose Black population has dwindled to three percent and Chief Suhr’s apparent lack of truthfulness in his defense of the shooting.
The day after the shooting, hundreds of community members attended a candlelight vigil at the site where Woods was killed and held a protest on the streets with specific demands.
The demands include firing all officers who discharged their weapons and charging them with murder, that San Francisco pay for a federal and independent investigation into Woods’ death and the firing of Chief Suhr “for failure to effectively do his job.”
After watching the shooting video, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying what he saw was “very upsetting” and “raised a number of questions,” pushing for the police department to implement more training.
Meanwhile, Chief Suhr is claiming that had the officers been equipped with Tasers, they would not have shot Woods to death while he was holding a knife.
On Friday, residents packed a town hall meeting hosted by SFPD where they heard Suhr justify Woods’ death, saying the officer feared for his life and for the safety of bystanders when he fired his gun.
Residents responded to Suhr’s explanation with jeers of disbelief.
“(Attorney General) Kamala Harris is going to have to step in and oversee this investigation because these people (the police department) will not investigate themselves,” said Minister Christopher Muhammad at the town hall meeting.
“These officers shouldn’t get paid vacation. That’s the quickest way to get a vacation is to shoot a brother. These officers must be charged with murder,” said Muhammad.
Monday night, the San Francisco NAACP also held a crowded meeting at Third Baptist Church to address the latest officer-involved shooting in San Francisco where many compared the shooting to a firing squad execution.
At City Hall on Wednesday, community members say they were barred from entering the main chambers and forced to wait outside the room where they chanted loud enough to be heard inside the meeting.
Since the shooting video’s release, several activist organizations have come out against Woods’ death and police response to their actions.
An open letter from several immigrant rights groups, including Causa Justa: Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, Asian Law Caucus and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “We are outraged by the killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the Bayview District last week.”
“Further, we are profoundly troubled by the apparent lack of transparency and truthfulness in police accounts to date of the shooting,” said the letter.
The letter mentions an analysis of the shooting video done by KQED, which contradicts claims by Chief Suhr that officers opened fire only after Woods made a threatening movement towards the officer with his arm.
A joint statement endorsed by the Black Student Union at the University of San Francisco (USF), La Raza Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association at USF also called the killing of Mario Woods “unlawful.”
“This use of unnecessary lethal force, and subsequent denial of fault by the San Francisco Police Department, epitomizes the failure of American policing that has become the spotlight of protest in communities around the country,” said the statement.
The office of civil rights attorney John Burris, which represented the family Oscar Grant’s family, will be representing the family of Mario Woods.
According to Burris, a new video of the shooting has surfaced that more clearly reveals that Woods was shot multiple times while his arms were down by his side.
The officer-involved shooting has gained national media attention, with prominent New York Daily News reporter and activist Shaun King writing a sobering article about Woods’ killing.
“Robert Lewis Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter (who is white), was arrested without even being punched,” writes King. “He allegedly shot five officers, killed one, killed a young mother and killed an Iraq war veteran. Police, though, found a way to take him into custody alive.”
“While many white mass murderers, like (Charleston shooter) Dylann Roof and Robert Lewis Dear, are taken alive by police, Mario Woods was shot down by cops who appeared to just want the situation to be over with,” he writes.
John Burris has created a website on the shooting death of Mario Woods which is at viewed at http://johnburrislegal.com/justice4mariowoods/