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Friday, December 4, 2015

John Burris Will Represent Family of Mario Woods, Man Slain by SF Police

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2015 at 12:18 PM

click to enlarge Jeff Stewart, left, and Gwendolyn Woods, the mother of Mario Woods, the man shot by police on Wednesday. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
  • Jeff Stewart, left, and Gwendolyn Woods, the mother of Mario Woods, the man shot by police on Wednesday.

The office of prominent civil rights attorney John Burris, known for representing families of people killed by police including Oscar Grant's, will represent the family of Mario Woods, the 26-year old fatally shot by San Francisco police this week.

Video of Woods's death on Wednesday — in which police, seeking a stabbing suspect whose description matched that of Woods, surround him as he slumps against a building on Keith Street, and fire at least 15 shots after Woods appears to walk towards an officer who is moving towards him — has circulated widely on social media.

It was on Facebook that Woods's mother, Gwendolyn Woods, discovered her son was dead, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has defended his officers' actions, who say that Woods was allegedly still armed with the kitchen knife used in the earlier alleged stabbing. (Other leaders, including Supervisor John Avalos, have compared Woods's death to an "execution.") Suhr or other police brass is expected to address the community at 6 p.m. tonight at a meeting on Oakdale Avenue.

In the meantime, Gwendolyn Woods called for peace — and for organizing. And Adante Pointer and DeWitt Lacy, two attorneys with Burris's office, are promising some measure of retribution via the courts.

"We plan to cash that check," Pointer told a crowd of up to 300 gathered at a vigil for Woods last night.

A slight man remembered by acquaintances as having a "sweet' and kind demeanor, Woods spent almost all of his short adult life in the criminal justice system.

He was named as a gang member in the "Oakdale Mob" in a civil suit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2009. Following a 2010 incident at a pool hall near Geneva Avenue, in which he was beaten with pool cues after an alleged attempted robbery went awry, he spent almost 900 days in county jail and then a few years in state prison, according to court records and community members, for firearms charges and for evading police. 

"He wasn't the same after that," said Jeff Stewart, Woods's cousin, who spoke at last night's vigil, attended also by District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen (but nobody else from City Hall, at least not visibly).

He had earned his GED in prison and had accepted a job with the United Parcel Service, his mother told the Examiner. He received his uniform for the job the day before he was killed.

It's still not entirely clear how Wednesday's incident began. Police say they approached Woods and shot him with less-lethal beanbag ammunition and also pepper-sprayed him before he was shot and killed after appearing to walk towards a police officer who was approaching him.

Warning, the below video is graphic.

The video shows "excessive use of force," Pointer said. "It shows a situation that escalated."

At Thursday night's vigil, attended by hundreds of people, most of whom appeared to be from the community — as opposed to "professional protesters" — organizers called for peace — but peaceful organizing and peaceful action. The message from the community was also crystal clear: in Bayview-Hunters Point, Woods's death is seen as a wanton slaughter. 

As far as Woods being a "gang" member? 

"He was not a gang member," said Stewart, Wood's cousin. But in a rough neighborhood where families exist without father figures who are locked up, "We follow people we think is cool. And this is where it ends up."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

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.

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