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Phil Matier: SFPD Holds Town Hall After Officers Kill Man In Bernal Heights Park

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San Francisco Police on the scene of an officer-involved shooting near Bernal Heights Park on the evening of March 21, 2014. (CBS)

San Francisco Police on the scene of an officer-involved shooting near Bernal Heights Park on the evening of March 21, 2014. (CBS)

PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr scheduled a town-hall meeting in the City’s Bernal Heights neighborhood Tuesday,  following the fatal officer-involved shooting of a man in Bernal Heights Park last Friday.

Alejandro Nieto, 28, was identified by the medical examiner’s office as the man killed in the shooting. According to police, Nieto allegedly pointed a gun at officers who were called to the park. The officers were said to have feared for their lives and more than one officer opened fire on him.

Police initially responded to area residents who called to say they had seen a man walking with a gun. Police said the weapon in question appeared to come out of its holster.

The question is expected to arise during the town hall as to whether or not Nieto’s weapon was a gun or a Taser. Friends of Nieto’s have described him as a peaceful college student who carried a stun gun for his security job. However, a former friend of his also sought a restraining order against Nieto because he allegedly stunned him four times.

Right now we don’t have the answer, but if it was a stun gun, surely that will lead to more questions.

Chief Suhr’s decision to hold the town hall goes back to his days as the Captain of the Bayview Station, probably one of the more active stations in the city. Suhr actually made it a policy to hold these types of meetings whenever there is an officer-involved shooting like this within 10 days of its occurrence.

Part of the policy is to hold the meeting at a neutral site, i.e. not a police station (Tuesday’s meeting is at an elementary school), where the community can come and ask questions.

Whether or not these meetings foster trust between the police and the community remains to be seen, but it can diffuse what is a potentially explosive situation. Suhr has learned that from his time in the Bayview, where just about any shooting could be considered controversial.

It’s a politically smart move and shuts down the rumor mill on the streets and the news media definitely pays attention.

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