Photo Claire Weissbluth

Braving the rain, 350 or so activists and family members marched on Saturday afternoon from the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts to the place on Bernal Hill where police shot and killed longtime resident Alejandro Nieto.

Police carrying riot helmets marched alongside the protesters who wore tee-shirts printed with the messages: “Justice for Alejandro Nieto,” and “Our Mission, No Eviction.”

While evictions and the Nieto shooting seem unrelated,  for many there is the sense that long time residents would not have called the police on Nieto because they would have known him.

“Why did they have to call the cops on us?”  Roberto Hernandez, a long-time community activist,  asked the marchers outside the Mission Cultural Center on Mission Street near 25th Street. “They like our culture, but they don’t like us.”

Hernandez said that in reference to a phone call police received at 7:11 p.m. on Friday, March 21st,  about a man who was acting erratically and allegedly had a gun. When officers arrived they were 75 feet away from him.  The sun was setting, police explained at a community meeting earlier in the week,  and officers couldn’t tell that Nieto was actually holding a taser gun that he used working as a security guard at a nightclub.

Feeling threatened,  police opened fire and ended up shooting to death Nieto who many in the neighborhood knew as an aspiring probation officer.

The goal of the protest was to create awareness about the incident. A man, who only identified himself as “low-ride,” talked to people at taquerias and outside their houses to tell them about Nieto as he marched.

“He was a security guard and they shot him,” he told someone as he was making his way up Bernal Hill on Folsom Street.

“They are walking their dogs, but they don’t even know that someone got shot and killed in their backyard,” he said.

Family members declined to speak about the two restraining orders filed against Nieto for allegedly tasing two former friends. Instead they chose to focus on his volunteering at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and his work at Juvenile Hall.

“I thought he was going to make it,” said Fernando Amador, a friend of Nieto, as he marched on Mission Street.

Once on the hill, the group sang songs and danced as they remembered Nieto and called for an outside investigation into the police department.

A group of people formed a line to hug Nieto’s father, Refugio.

“I didn’t know he was so loved,” he said.

Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated there there were 100 or so people marching from the Mission Cultural center to Bernal Hill. The count was about 350 people. We regret the error.

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

Claire is a filmmaker who grew up deep in the woods of Northern California. She's passionate about visual storytelling and taco trucks, taking pictures of street art, and watching movies at the Roxie.

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  1. These protesters represent the worst elements of our society. The police are here protecting us everyday and these people protest like crazy when the police shoot a criminal.

    Yet the gangs terrorize our neighborhood and there is complete silence from these same people. What is wrong with them?

  2. I’m a (white) Bernal neighbor who’s been walking my dog in that park for more than five years, and who lives close enough that I heard the gunfire (and thought it was a string of fireworks until I learned otherwise).

    I’ve spoken with a lot of the other dogwalking regulars I’ve gotten to know over the years. People are horrified and saddened at Mr. Nieto’s death, even when we didn’t know him. While it does seem possible police might have thought he had a lethal weapon, though he didn’t, it’s very hard to understand why he was shot so very many times–enough to sound like a long string of fireworks at my house….

  3. Going beyond all opinions about grammar,
    Gentrification, race baiting etc.

    This shooting as are most shootings by police
    An ineffective way of dealing with social issues…A real tragedy! A loss of a human being
    Who was loved and whose loss of life is just another example our society inability to deal with the real issues in a constructive caring fashion! I am so sorry for your loss!

    1. I appreciate your humane, caring feelings towards this person and family. Sadly people like “John” and “Kevin Smith” lack this humanity. We will never get anywhere with the John’s and Kevin’s in this world.

      1. It’s not that I do not feel sorry for the guy. My focus was simply on the allegations that the police acted improperly somehow. I quite simply have not seen any evidence that points to that.

        It is not the compassion being expressed that I object to, as I might if Nieto really had been a hardened felon.

        Rather it is how quickly people seek to blame the cops or make this a race issue that appalls me.

        It’s an unfortunate accident, but there is no reason for some people to instantly try and politicize it.

  4. “While evictions and the Nieto shooting seem unrelated, for many there is the sense that long time residents would not have called the police on Nieto because they would have known him.”

    Per AB144, you cannot open carry a handgun in California. It happened to be a taser, but unless working, you’re making a grave mistake with potentially fatal consequences if you carry it openly instead of in a bag. And you are essentially committing suicide be cop if you pull it out in their presence.

    Tragic shooting, but the outrage, and especially the link to the Real Estate market in the Mission district is utterly misguided. Make an argument for better mental health intervention & their would be a legitimate angle to the story.

  5. I did a head count at the beginning of the march in front of the Mission Cultural Center; and it neared 500, we doubled in size along the way, and when it started to rain the crowd dispersed, and we lost several groups. As we entered the inclined to the hill we continued to lose people, but at least two hundred people reached the top of the hill, where a ceremony in Alex’s name was offered.

    1. Exactly, no common sense. The police are here protecting us everyday and these people protest like crazy when the police shoot a criminal.

      Yet the gangs terrorize our neighborhood and there is complete silence from these same people. What is wrong with them?

  6. PRO TIP: If you’re high a motherf*cker don’t go to a park, harass people, and flaunt an object that looks like a gun.

    Where was all this support for this poor guy when he obviously know to have mental issues? Where was the “community” then?!

    1. Yeah, if the leftist extremists wanted a poster child for their anti-cop hatred, they probably could have chosen better than this mentally unstable guy whose own family had taken out RO’s against him.

      1. Where’s your evidence that his “own family had taken out RO’s against him?”

        Lying or stupidity, which is it?

        1. ML itself provided the evidence in their earlier piece. Here is the quote:

          “But two restraining orders filed by former friends offer a different narrative.

          Earlier this month, The San Francisco Superior Court partially granted his former friend, Arthur X. Vega, a restraining order against Nieto for allegedly shooting him with a Taser gun four times in front of his wife, documents show. Nieto also had a restraining order against Vega, according to documents.

          The court also granted Vega’s wife, Yajaira Barrera Estrada, a partial restraining order before the hearing date on April 11.”

          1. I used “family” in the broader sense i.e. family, friends and neighbors. RO’s aren’t usually taken out by against strangers.

            The point being that he had used his taser on people within his community, and had his civil rights restricted as a result.

  7. Please correct your typo: “100 or so activists and family members marched on Saturday afternoon” … it was clearly closer to 1000.

  8. “two restraining orders filed against Nieto for allegedly tasing two former friends”

    Yes as usual your “community” values has some skeletons in the closet….

    1. And even so, did he deserve to die? How at all is that relevant? Fact is, the cops’ actions were irresponsible and unjust to day the least. Situation would be quite different if it were someone of your “community.”

  9. Closer to 1000 people than 100 people. The largest community march/rally in recent memory, which combined outrage at the police shooting, celebration of our shared and diverse community values and spirit, and not quite somber mourning of Alex Nieto’s avoidable and premature death.

    1. Bu your #1 shared and diverse (I question “diverse” as you seen to hate and want to push out of the area higher income people that buy into and improve the neighborhood) value is cheap subsidized rent. That is really a poor and of low character “value”.

      1. Kevin, the implication appears to be that if a white guy had been killed, then that would not have been so tragic.

        1. The race baiter, who insists he never is the first to inject race into a discussion, strikes again by being the first to inject race into a discussion.

          Is anyone surprised?

          I attended the march/rally and the town hall meeting. I base my crowd estimate from personal experience. Look at the picture from the article. Many more than 100 people there, more than a half mile and a half hour into the march, in the rain, up a steep hill.

          1. Wrong again. you introduced race into it by whining about the “murder of a person of color” and bleating about “diversity”.

            All I did was call you out on your blatant race baiting and card playing.

          2. Only lying or stupidity can account for you misquoting me to deflect from your race baiting.

            Which is it?

          3. Easy to prove you wrong here, SFBoy. Your exact words: “celebration of our shared and diverse community values and spirit”

            Why is a protest against what appears to be a legitimate police action anything to do with “diversity” which, in your meaning, is about race.

            This isn’t a race issue but you are trying to make it one for political capital.

          4. Because the participants of the march reflected the diversity of our neighborhood’s residents in many aspects, not just ethnicity, but also age, class, and artistic affinity to name just a few.

            Why not just own up to your racism? It’s clear to almost everyone by your race baiting and, in the instance, the way you distorted and fabricated my statement.

          5. OK, so not you admit race is a part of this, having previously claimed that it is not.

            It is not.

    2. I’d put the figure at closer to 100 than 1,000 although I suppose it depends where when it passed you by.

      But if it were 1,000 that is one eight of one percent of the city.

      I give them credit for them behaving themselves though. If this were Oakland there’d be riots and hundreds arrested.