By the spot on Bernal Hill park where 28-year-old Alex Nieto was killed by San Francisco Police Department officers in March, his family and friends gathered once more for a press conference Friday to share their feelings about a Medical Examiner’s report released Friday showing that police fired at least 10 bullets from multiple directions at Nieto.
The Medical Examiner’s report reveals that Nieto sustained at least 14 wounds from gunshots, that could have been caused by at least 10 bullets, according to the report. There were entrance wounds on his head, chest, arms, legs, shoulders, hands and back. From the Examiner’s report, the shots producing those bullets appear to have traveled from at least three different directions.
“The reports show that there were 14 to 15 bullet wounds, the trajectory of those wounds are both downward and upward, which seems to indicate that he was lying down when he was shot,” said Benjamin Bac Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice and Amor for Alex Nieto Committee.
The family, he added, “emphatically request the Federal Justice Department thoroughly investigate this homicide….San Francisco and their apparatus can’t be trusted.”
In his statements at a community meeting in March, Chief of Police Greg Suhr said that officers who arrived on-scene triangulated around Nieto when they found him on the north side of Bernal Hill. He stated that four officers’ guns were discharged.
In that meeting Suhr said the officers fired in defense of their own lives upon seeing the red laser sight of a Taser that Nieto allegedly pointed at officers. The Medical Examiner says Nieto “reportedly brandished and discharged the Taser at officers.”
The legal team of the Nieto family has previously said that they have eyewitnesses who contradict this version of the story.
In his statements to the press Friday, Bac Sierra emphasized that the Medical Examiner’s report called the manner of death “homicide.”
“The Medical Examiner has ruled the death Alex Neito was a homicide, not death by natural causes, not an accident, not a suicide, this is a homicide,” Bac Sierra said.
Christopher Wirowek, a spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said that the designation of homicide is just one of five designations used in assigning the manner of death. He would not comment further on the released report.
The report states that Nieto did have a “clinical history of psychosis exacerbated by non-compliance with medications.” Besides finding traces of marijuana in Nieto’s bloodstream, which the family says isn’t unusual because Nieto had a medical marijuana card, the toxicology report found no evidence that Nieto had been taking numerous prescriptions, including those prescribed for anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression.
Bac Sierra says this detail is irrelevant to the events of the night leading up to Nieto’s death. He was “law-abiding his entire life,” Bac Sierra added.
“The police department did not know who Alex was or anything about his history of mental illness,” said Bac Sierra. “There’s no evidence that the police department knew anything prior to the incident.”
In addition to the rage and sadness felt over the death, Bac Sierra says the family feels like city authorities are obfuscating justice and not coming through with promises. The family had met with District Attorney George Gascon, who they say promised them to expedite the autopsy report but never did so. The report took six months to complete.
“It makes us feel that there is some type of conspiracy,” said Bac Sierra, who added, “The Mayor has not commented at all.”
The police department, the office of Citizen Review, and the District Attorney’s Office are all investigating the death of Nieto, and the family has also filed a civil suit against the city to get more answers.
Today’s press conference occurred in front of an altar set up for Nieto. While Bac Sierra spoke, Nieto’s father Refugio Nieto stood stoically behind him.
You can view the entire Medical Examiner’s report below (courtesy of KQED):