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Friday, October 23, 2015

Man Killed by SFPD Last Week Struggled to Make Ends Meet, Lived in Hotels With His Mother

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 9:55 AM

Scene of the shooting at Eighth and Market - MICHAEL BARBA/SF EXAMINER
  • Michael Barba/SF Examiner
  • Scene of the shooting at Eighth and Market
New details have emerged about Herbert Benitez, the 27-year-old man killed by an SFPD officer last week.

Benitez had been throwing bottles into the street on the south side of Eighth and Market and acting erratically when a nearby construction crew flagged down a police car. Officers attempted to talk to Benitez, but when he wrested an officer’s gun from its holster, the officer's partner shot and killed Benitez. 

He died at the scene.

As KRON 4 reports, Benitez lived with his mother, a Salvadoran immigrant who came to San Francisco in 1982 (the pair had been at the Main Library together just prior to the shooting).

After graduating from high school in Daly City, Benitez worked as a bank teller at Washington Mutual, and also tutored children. In 2008, when the bank shut down, he worked as a dishwasher until losing that job as well.

Per KRON 4, Benitez and his mother moved from hotel to hotel, struggling to make ends meet. Benitez’s mother cannot afford to bury her son nor have a funeral ceremony.

During a town hall meeting this week, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr defended the officer who killed Benitez. A 17-year veteran of the force, the officer wasn’t trained in crisis intervention, but Suhr said that the officer’s actions were consistent with department protocol. Investigators are still looking for surveillance footage that supports the officers’ testimonies.

As the Examiner reported, an unidentified woman spoke at the town hall meeting on Monday: “The Herbert you’re describing is not the Herbert I knew when I would see him Tuesday nights at bible study. We are just speechless right now,” she said.

Other local residents at the meeting worried that the shooting sent a troubling message to the city’s Latino community, some members of which are wary of the police due to language barriers and their uncertain immigration status. 

The District Attorney’s office and Office of Citizen Complaints are now conducting independent investigations into last week's fatality — the fifth officer-involved shooting of the year. 

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Jeremy Lybarger

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