Mario Woods’ Mother Settles Lawsuit Against SF for Son’s Fatal Shooting By Police Days Before Jury Trial on Wrongful Death Was to Begin

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Gwen Woods with her attorney, John Burris.

On the eve of a trial, the mother of Mario Woods has reached a settlement agreement with San Francisco to end the wrongful death lawsuit she filed against five officers for fatally shooting her son in the Bayview in 2015, the San Francisco Examiner has reported.

Details of the tentative agreement made Tuesday have not been released, but civil rights attorney John Burris said Gwen Woods is satisfied with the terms of the deal, which was reached just days before the case was scheduled for trial.

“She is relieved,” Burris said. “It was quite an ordeal for her.”

Perhaps no recent police shooting in San Francisco has been more controversial than the killing of Mario Woods.

Multiple cell phone cameras recorded on Dec. 2, 2015 as the officers shot Mario Woods, a 26-year-old suspect in a nearby stabbing, after attempting to make him drop the knife by using bean-bag guns and pepper spray. Footage of the shooting went viral on social media and spurred outrage. Coalitions formed, marches were  held and town halls called.

Building on momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement and a racist police texting scandal, the December 2015 shooting led to a federal review of the San Francisco Police Department and, eventually, the resignation of a police chief.

Last year, District Attorney George Gascon declined to file criminal charges against the five officers who surrounded and shot Mario Woods as he walked on a Bayview sidewalk with a knife in his hand.

Gwen Woods filed the lawsuit in federal court days after the shooting, seeking monetary damages.

The City Attorney’s Office represented officers Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas, Winson Seto, Antonio Santos and Scott Phillips in the case.

In a statement, John Cote, a spokesperson for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, offered condolences to the loved ones of Mario Woods.

“Police officers are often forced into difficult situations and have to make split-second decisions in dangerous and evolving circumstances,” Cote said. “In this case, the officers’ response to a risky situation was consistent with their training and in accordance with the law.”

“This settlement allows us to reach a resolution without the need for a trial,” he said. “Hopefully it will help bring closure for all involved.”

Burris declined to discuss the arguments his attorneys planned to make at trial until the settlement agreement is finalized.

The agreement needs further approval, including from the Board of Supervisors.

“Gwendolyn Woods had a very strong wrongful death case based on the videos,” Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, co-chair of the Public Defender’s Racial Justice Committee told the Examiner. “Of all the outrageous and unjustified shootings of suspects in this city, the killing of Mario Woods qualifies as an execution by firing squad.”

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