SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An apologetic San Francisco District Attorney announced Thursday that no charges will be filed against the SFPD officers involved in two high-profile fatal officer-involved shootings cases.
District Attorney George Gascón told reporters no evidence was found of wrongdoing by officers involved in the December 2015 Mario Woods shooting or the fatal officer-involved shooting of Luis Gongora Pat at a homeless encampment in April 2016.
Gascon prefaced his comments by apologizing if he sounded disjointed, saying “I found myself very dissatisfied because, while clearly under the law today no crime has occurred, that answer was very unsatisfactory for me morally and as a human being.”
Gascon went on to say he was “extremely disturbed by the state of the law today, and yet I am duty bound to adhere to the law.”
He then went on to confirm that no charges would be charged in the two cases.
“After very careful analysis and lengthy investigations, interviewing witnesses, talking to use-of-force experts, talking to police trainers both here in San Francisco and nationally recognized experts, and talking to our own legal advisors, the conclusion is very, very clear. That under the law today, no crime was committed either in the Mario Woods shooting or the Gongora shooting,” said Gascón.
The DA said while the officers acted legally, there may have been a better way.
“The question is how quickly the event unfolded and whether the way that someone who is mentally ill was approached was actually the best approach,” said Gascón.
The DA expressed remorse and regret to the families of the two men fatally shot during his statement.
“There are no words that I can say to express my sorrow and that of my team. And there is nothing that I can say to bring your loved ones back,” said Gascón.
Woods was killed on Dec. 2 after he was shot by five officers during a confrontation with police near Third Street and Le Conte Avenue.
Police encountered Woods, who allegedly had bloody clothes and was holding a knife, after receiving a report that a man armed with a knife had stabbed someone just moments before nearby.
Cell phone video of the incident was taken bystanders was posted online and has generated public outrage.
In an attempt to get Woods to drop the knife, officers used bean bag rounds, foam baton rounds and pepper spray. Woods crouched down for a bit, and then stood up with the knife and began walking toward civilians on the sidewalk.
That was when an officer stepped in between Woods and the civilians. When Woods kept walking, police opened fire.
An autopsy later revealed Woods had been shot 21 times by police, many of the bullet wounds in his back. The autopsy also revealed Woods had methamphetamine, marijuana, anti-depressants, cough syrup, nicotine and caffeine in his system.
The officers who fired on Woods were identified by police as Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips. None of those officers will be charged.
A civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of Woods, along with attorney John Burris, against the city in federal court
in December. According to the suit, officers used extreme force on Woods and should have used a different protocol because Woods allegedly suffered from mental illness.
The public outcry over the Woods shooting helped lead to the resignation of then police chief Greg Suhr and a change in policy on the use of deadly force by the San Francisco police department.
Gascón said that there would be no charges filed against Sergeant Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone for violating the law when they fatally shot Gongora Pat on April 7, 2016.
The officers said they opened fired when Gongora Pat, who lived in a tent encampment on Shotwell Street, charged at officers with a large knife. However, eight eyewitnesses told reporters in the days after the shooting that Gongora Pat never threatened the officers.
Following the announcement, the family of Gongora Pat and their supporters rallied outside the Hall of Justice and called for Gascon’s resignation.
According to the family, they had been given a one-day notice to meet with Gascon ahead of Thursday’s announcement, but declined the meeting after they were told that their spokeswoman, Adriana Camarena, and a member of the Mexican consulate would not be allowed to attend.
The mother of Mario Woods, Gwendolyn Woods, did not attend the rally.
Attorney Adante Pointer, who is representing both families in federal lawsuits, was also in attendance at Thursday’s rally and vowed to seek charges in federal court.
Pointer Told KPIX 5 Gongora Pat was sitting down when officers arrived.
“This is just more of the same from what is supposed to be a Hall of Justice, but what has turned into a hall of injustice,” said Pointer. “Officers rush in, force a confrontation, and — because they’re armed with guns — shoot their way out.”