Following the officer shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods last week, San Francisco residents are calling for the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr.
During a community meeting on Friday, an outraged group of Bayview residents demanded that Suhr step down, after he said the cops who shot Woods in the neighborhood were justified. Video footage captured by multiple bystanders shows that Woods was actually walking away from five officers who had their guns drawn. When one of the cops moved to stand in front of Woods, the 26-year-old kept walking. At that point, the five officers opened fire.
Referencing a blown-up photo of Woods holding a knife with his arm outstretched, Suhr argued that the 26-year-old was a threat to the cops at the scene. He maintained the officers fired “in defense” of themselves and other people in the vicinity, adding that they first tried to subdue Woods with pepper spray and beanbag rounds. But the video does not show Woods lunging or making aggressive movements.
People at the meeting yelled “liar” and “murderer,” saying Suhr needs to step down. They pointed out that the officers could have found another way to disarm Woods, since British police successfully took down a man wielding a machete without killing him. Last year, 30 cops spent close to six minutes trying to disarm the man without firing their guns, which showed that dangerous people can be subdued without lethal force.
“You think we’re actually stupid,” Bayview resident Asale-Haqueenyah Chandler said of Suhr’s comments.
“You get up here [at these meetings] and you tell the same version of events,” said activist Adriana Camerena. “You tell a narrative that someone poses a threat. It’s the narrative you have to defend in court, but it’s a lie. So are you here to resign?”
An internal investigation of the shooting is ongoing. Charges against the officers are not on the table yet.
Wood’s shooting is just one of many excessive force cases this year. It may be the last straw for a community that has endured rampant racial profiling and police brutality for years.
Back in August, 14 officers forcefully took down a one-legged homeless man for allegedly waving one of his crutches in the air. In April, 23-year old Travis Hall was thrown out of his car and slammed on a concrete curb during an unlawful police interrogation. And last month, two officers repeatedly clubbed 29-year-old Stanislav Petrov on the ground, following a high-speed car chase.
In 2014, four officers shot Alex Nieto 10 to 15 times, when they mistook a Taser for a gun. Nieto, a security guard, was carrying the Taser to work.
Police in the city also have a damning record of racial profiling. Back in March, the San Francisco Chronicle released racist text exchanges between five SFPD officers who talked about killing black people.
“I hate to tell you this but my wife friend [sic] is over with their kids and her husband is black,” read one. “Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down.” Another said, “All n****** must fucking hang.” “N****** should be spayed,” read a third.
According to the California Department of Justice, black people in San Francisco are seven times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts.