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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Outraged Community Calls for SFPD Chief's Resignation Over Killing of Mario Woods

Posted By on Sat, Dec 5, 2015 at 9:56 AM

click to enlarge Jeff Stewart and Gwendolyn Woods mourn their cousin and son, Mario Woods - MIKE KOOZMIN/SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
  • Jeff Stewart and Gwendolyn Woods mourn their cousin and son, Mario Woods

A community meeting in the Bayview erupted in anger and calls for the resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr as the embattled police chief attempted to justify the fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods on Wednesday.

Before a crowd of several hundred residents at the Southeast campus of City College of San Francisco, Suhr said that during the confrontation on Third Street, police had initially deployed bean bag rounds and a larger impact less lethal munition, pepper spray, and additional beanbag rounds. 

When Woods, who was suspected of an earlier stabbing in the neighborhood, began to "slide along the building," Suhr said one officer moved to cut off Woods' path, "fearing he could get to the bus."

(There were Muni trains on the Third Street tracks as the incident unfolded, and several witness videos have surfaced. Several Bayview residents have said that the trains were full of middle school students at the time of the shooting, on their way home from school. One woman, who asked to be identified as Harmony, told SF Weekly that her 12-year-old niece was on the train during the shooting, and that she was scared to go to school the next day.) 

Suhr said that the officer fired "in defense of himself" and that four other officers (of the more than ten present at the scene) "fired in defense of that officer." Suhr also produced stills of the witness video which he claimed showed Woods with his arm outstretched and a knife directed at the police officer. 

click to enlarge Stills of witness video of the shooting - JCW
  • JCW
  • Stills of witness video of the shooting
That suggestion was met with jeers and disbelief by a crowd that variously described the shooting as an "execution," "firing squad," "murder," "assassination," and "target practice." 

"If it was your father, or your brother, or your son that had a knife, would you have shot him down like a pig?" asked one community member. 

Other community members pressed Suhr to reveal how he would respond if his own son had been in Woods' position.

"I would let the investigation finish," Suhr said at first. Pressed again, he added, "If the investigation showed the my son did something to cause this, then..." before trailing off. 

Again and again, community members took to the podium to demand Suhr's resignation. Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway, members of Black Lives Matter Bay Area who organized Thursday night's vigil, presented a list of additional demands, including: the release of the names of the police officers involved, a federal investigation, Surh's resignation, a public apology for Woods' death, SFPD to pay for Woods' funeral, and for the police officers involved to be fired and charged with murder. 

Following the meeting, Suhr told reporters that he did not plan to resign. Suhr also said that he called the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) on Friday morning, and that SFPD would now join a group of 25 other U.S. police departments in a group to study the kind of de-escalation tactics in use in England, where officers are trained to disarm suspects with knives. 

SFPD's participation in such a group — the details of which are as yet unclear — comes too late for Mario Woods. While no autopsy has been released yet, audio from the witness videos suggest that police fired more than fifteen rounds. 

"Wild game hunters have enough compassion for animals to only shoot them once," said Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam at the end of the meeting. "But you put 25 bullets into a black man with a kitchen knife." 
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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

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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