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Thursday, December 3, 2015

UPDATED: Mario Woods, Gang Member Slain by SFPD, Remembered as "Total Sweetheart"

Posted By and on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 11:32 AM

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This post has been updated.

The man shot and killed by San Francisco police yesterday was identified as Mario Woods, 26, by the city's Medical Examiner.

The encounter began after a stabbing victim arrived at San Francisco General Hospital yesterday to report that he'd been attacked at Third Street and Le Conte and that the stabber was still at large. Police responded and found Woods, who matched the description given by the victim, about six blocks away near the intersections of Third Street and Gilman Avenue in Bayview-Hunters Point at about 4:35 p.m. yesterday.

Still armed with the kitchen knife allegedly used in the stabbing, Woods was reportedly pepper-sprayed and shot with less-lethal beanbag ammunition but was still standing and refusing to surrender, according to police. Officers demanded he drop the knife, but Woods moved towards an officer who was approaching him, and was subsequently shot 15 times.

The final seconds of the encounter, all of which was witnessed by passengers on a nearby Muni bus, were captured by a witness on smartphone video and posted to Instagram. 

Additional video, which appears to show the incident from another angle, has been shared widely on Twitter. The video shows that at least ten police officers were present during the encounter, and appears to show Woods crouching down against the wall, before standing up and beginning to walk again. According to SFPD, five officers fired their weapons after "fearing for their safety." 

In 2009, at the age of 19, Woods was also named as a gang member affiliated with what City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the "Oakdale Mob" as part of the city's controversial gang injunctions, according to court records. He spent much of his short life in and out of incarceration before his death yesterday, but the people who knew him spoke highly of him.

Anitra Dorn, a 25-year-old Bayview resident, recalled Woods as a "total sweetheart." Dorn says she attended Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School with Woods, before losing touch with him. Dorn spoke of his "bright white smile" and said Woods "always liked people to be happy." 

Dorn believes Woods was struggling to cope with a difficult home environment and says he "acted out a little" at school. Asked about his being named on a gang injunction, she added, "It's not very surprising only because of the area we grew up in. People find family where they can." 

In comments to the Chronicle, witnesses and people who identified themselves as acquaintances as Woods described him as a slight man seen around the neighborhood drinking a beer or smoking cigarettes who posed little threat and "wouldn't hurt a fly."

In 2009, when Woods was 19, he was identified by Herrera as an "active gang member" who had participated in armed robbery, had stolen a car, and had gotten into an automobile accident while fleeing from police.

According to court records, he pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to seven years in state prison in 2012, after having spent almost three years in County Jail. It was not immediately clear when he was released from prison.

The city began slapping certain individuals from the Fillmore, Bayview, Visitacion Valley and other poorer areas of town with "gang injunctions" in 2006. The injunctions, which amounted to stay-away orders from certain parts of town — oftentimes meaning that the individuals couldn't return home or visit families without facing additional penalties — were and are controversial.

Once added to the list of gang members — for reasons often amounting to nothing more than having a criminal record — individuals remained there for life.

"That meant you were a gang member for life," said Erris Edgerly, a Fillmore-based activist with Brothers for Change who advocated against the injunctions.

"And people here, they really don't claim to be in gangs," he added. "It's more like you were from a block, and all of a sudden, maybe you started selling some drugs, doing what life put in front of you — and then you were in a gang."

The injunctions gave police and prosecutors an additional tool against people with criminal records, but according to Edgerly, they had little impact on crime in the affected communities.

They did have an impact on the people named. Most of the gang members named from his area, Edgerly said, are today "all dead." 

Many in San Francisco and across the country have reacted with outrage to the video of Woods' killing. As Public Defender Jeff Adachi told KQED, "I understand that officers are trained to kill, but if we are going to expect ordinary citizens to only shoot and kill people where they believe they are in danger of being killed themselves, we should hold police officers to a similar standard.  Based on what we see in this video, it does not look like the officer who fired the fatal shots was in immediate danger of being killed."

The ACLU of Northern California released a statement calling for "justice for Mario Woods." The video, according to the ACLU, "does not appear to show the imminent danger or substantial risk of death or serious injury that would permit the use of a firearm under SFPD policy."

Black Lives Matter Bay Area and other organizations have called for a protest and vigil this evening. 

"It's a direct demonstration of how much black lives don't matter," said Pastor Yul Dorn of the Emanuel Church of God in Christ. Dorn is Anitra Dorn's father. 

"Why would you kill a man that brings a knife to a gunfight?" Dorn asked. "I guarantee there's going to be some fallout behind this. San Francisco is sitting on a powder keg." 

The video from the shooting is below. Warning: it is graphic and disturbing.

A video posted by HotRod (@daniggahot) on





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About The Authors

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

Julia Carrie Wong

Bio:
Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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