SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – More than two weeks of rallying outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice by the family of a homeless man killed by police in 2016 concluded Thursday evening with a final plea for District Attorney George Gascon to press charges against the involved officers.
The family of Luis Gongora Pat has been rallying outside the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. since April 11 to hold Gascon accountable after he said he would make a charging decision within six to eight weeks during a Feb. 28th meeting with Gongora Pat’s family.
“It’s very lamentable that we’re here doing these rallies to demand that the District Attorney George Gascon keep his word. It’s very lamentable that this man is Latino and he sought our support to win the position in a sanctuary city,” Gongora Pat’s cousin, Luis Poot Pat said in Spanish today outside the Hall of Justice.
“Exactly eight weeks ago yesterday, we had a meeting with him,” Poot Pat said. “Now we’re waiting for him to bother to take on the time to do his job…stop covering up for killer police officers,” he said.
The family and their supporters concluded the two weeks of rallying with a 24-hour vigil that started Wednesday evening at 6 p.m., with each hour meant to represent the 24 people who have died at the hands of police in San Francisco since 2011, when Gascon was first elected into office. Coincidently, Wednesday would also have been Gongora Pat’s 38th birthday.
Gongora Pat’s younger brother, Jose Gongora, has been very active in the quest for justice for his brother, rallying every Friday around noon for more than a year outside the Hall of Justice. During Wednesday’s 24-hour vigil, Jose Gongora and a group of activist stayed posted outside the building the entire night.
“For us it wasn’t hard—we’re used to it all. We’re Maya. We’re strong and we don’t fold easily,” he said in Spanish.
Even though the family hasn’t heard from Gascon since the Feb. 28th meeting, Jose Gongora said he has no intentions of stopping his activism.
“If it’s possible I’ll be here everyday, because Mr. Gascon hasn’t given my brother justice and so somehow I’ll find justice on my own. This is just the beginning,” he said.
Today, District Attorney’s Office spokesman Alex Bastian said Gongora Pat’s case remains under investigation.
Gongora Pat, an indigenous Mayan man from the Mexican state of Yucatan, had lived in the U.S. for more than a decade but was living at a homeless encampment near the corner of 19th and Shotwell streets when he died.
On April 7th, 2016, officers responded to the area after homeless outreach workers initially called police to report a man seen swinging a large kitchen knife, police said.
Upon arrival, officers found him seated on a sidewalk with the knife in his hand. After ordering him in both English and Spanish to put the knife down, they fired beanbag rounds at him. Police said he then stood up and ran at the officers with the knife in his hand.
Sgt. Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone both shot him and Gongora Pat later died at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, police said. The entire encounter lasted about 30 seconds.
“If we rely on George Gascon’s record of holding a 100 percent impunity rate, we shouldn’t expect much from him,” said Adriana Camarena, organizer and spokeswoman for Gongora Pat’s family, referring to his lack of pressing charges against any of the officers involved in the 24 deaths at the hands of San Francisco police since he took office.
“He paints himself as a progressive but his record says otherwise. So if he wants to remain relevant to this city, we’re telling him that he could be a hero and not a coward,” Camarena said. “You need accountability and you need serious consequences when police kill in a such a violent manner.”
In the meantime, Gongora Pat’s family has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit and is being represented by civil rights attorney Adante Pointer. The civil suit, however, won’t be heard in federal court until May 2, 2019, according to Pointer.
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