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Monday, December 14, 2015

Prior Excessive Force Complaints for Officers Who Shot Mario Woods

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 3:38 PM

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At least two of the five San Francisco police officers who shot and killed Mario Woods on Dec. 2 had been previously accused of using excessive force, including the beating of a Bayview man while he was in handcuffs, court records show.

While working as a police officer in Antioch in 2009, Officer Nicholas Cuevas shot two suspects in the back who, he claimed, were trying to ram his police cruiser with their car.

In San Francisco, Officer Charles August led a group of officers in the beating of a man outside a Bayview liquor store. The man, who was never charged with a crime, claimed to be handcuffed during part of the alleged beating, according to court records.

In another incident, August was accused of choking Kevin Lamar Hopkins, who was also shackled in handcuffs at the time, so hard Hopkins spat up blood, according to another lawsuit. 

The city settled August’s first lawsuit in 2012. The city recently settled the second lawsuit filed against August for an undisclosed sum.

The lawsuit against Cuevas, brought by a plaintiff who is charged with murdering two jewelry store employees in San Francisco during a 2013 robbery, is still pending.

August and Cuevas, along with Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, and Scott Phillips, were identified Friday as the five officers who fired at least 20 shots from their weapons at Woods, a former felon who police say matched the description of a suspect in an earlier stabbing.

Video of the encounter posted to the internet has sparked outrage, including protests and students walking out of school on Friday, and has led Mayor Ed Lee to call for an examination of police tactics.

Prominent civil rights attorney John Burris filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the SFPD on behalf of Woods’s family on Friday.

Burris also released video that seems to contradict the initial claim from police that Woods approached police while still armed with the knife using in the stabbing.

Cuevas, a former Antioch police officer who joined SFPD in a lateral transfer in 2011, was sued after he fired his service weapon at a vehicle containing three men sought by police after one of them brandished a gun during an argument with security at a private party.

While in a marked Antioch police cruiser with its siren off, Cuevas encountered a car “stuck in a parking lot cul-de-sac” driven by Barry White, Jr., with Gilbert Longsworth and Demetrius Anderson also inside.

According to Cuevas, White attempted to drive away and rammed his cruiser in the process. According to the suit, Cuevas shined his spotlight on the vehicle and told the occupants to put up their hands, when Cuevas started firing his weapon.

White was shot in the back of the head and Longworth in the back. The men fled and Cuevas kept firing, hitting White in the back again, according to the lawsuit. Another bullet nicked the brim of Anderson’s hat.

After the federal lawsuit was filed, White, the main plaintiff, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest as a result of the encounter, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

It was while suffering from PTSD as a result of being shot in the head that White allegedly shot three employees at Victoga Inc., a jewelry store inside the San Francisco GiftCenter & JewelryMart, killing two of them, in 2013.

His 2011 lawsuit against Cuevas, Antioch, and a host of other officers involved that night is still ongoing, complicated by the fact that White is in jail awaiting trial for that murder.

In court filings, Cuevas and the Antioch’s lawyers deny any wrongdoing stemming from the 2009 incident.

Jivaka Candappa, White’s former lawyer for his civil case, says White developed PTSD following the Antioch shooting and believes that was a factor for the 2013 murders he’s accused of committing.

White still has bullet fragments in his brain, Candappa told SF Weekly.

Candappa and White’s criminal attorney from the Antioch case, Steven Taxman, both confirmed to SF Weekly that Nicholas Cuevas left the Antioch Police Department to join the SFPD around 2011.

Charles August, another of the five SFPD officers that shot Woods on Dec. 2, was sued in federal court last year for allegedly beating a San Francisco man named David Lloyd while Lloyd was face down and in handcuffs.

That case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in July.

The settlement was scheduled to be approved by the Police Commission at last Wednesday’s contentious meeting, in which community members outraged over Woods’s death called for police Chief Greg Suhr’s resignation.

According to the suit, Lloyd was leaving a Bayview liquor store in July 2013 when three plain-clothed cops were searching another man and blocking Lloyd from getting his bike.

Trying to get his bike and go home, Lloyd claims he was attacked by police after August, who was in uniform, shoved him.

“Then within a minute, Defendant Charles AUGUST slammed Mr. Lloyd onto the ground,” the complaint says. “Mr. Lloyd hit his head on the ground and had his belly fully pressed against the ground. Immediately, five other police officers at the scene jumped on top of Mr. Lloyd and all police officers began to beat him by punching and kicking him while he was subdued on the ground.”

He was then handcuffed, but the beating didn’t stop “for almost four minutes after,” he claimed. When he was ordered to walk to a squad car, he realized his right ankle was broken. “After yelling at him several times, Police officers picked him up, carried him to their patrol unit, and threw him into it. He was taken to the police station and charged with resisting arrest.”

In addition to a broken ankle, Lloyd reported an injured knee and back, with scratches and bruises all over his body.

The charges against Lloyd were later dismissed by the District Attorney.

A spokesman for the SFPD declined to comment for this story.
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