An assailant in parking lot of the Mission District Police Station on Valencia pulled out what Police Chief Greg Suhr later described as a BB or airsoft gun this evening and pointed it at police officers standing in the lot before being hit by police fire.
The shooter died from his injuries at 7:53 p.m. at San Francisco General Hospital, police reported.
One eyewitness said the suspect opened fire, but Suhr said later that he was not aware of shots being fired by the suspect.
Suhr told reporters later this evening that two sergeants fired several shots and hit the suspect three times after he pulled a weapon from his waistband. Before his death, the suspect was treated for his injuries at San Francisco General Hospital where he gave officers a name that has not been disclosed. No officers were injured in the incident and the two sergeants were put on paid administrative leave, as is customary.
Three officers, including the two sergeants, approached the suspect who was in the parking lot – an area that is not open to the public – and told him to leave, Suhr said. The officers then went into the patrol car and saw that he was still in the driveway.
“They found this curious, approached him and told him again he can’t be there,” he said. “He went to his waistband where there was the butt of a gun and drew a weapon. Two sergeants fired and hit him three times.”
The suspect had approached officers earlier in the day at 16th and Mission Streets and inquired about the weapons they carry. “Officers at the time found this very curious, but nothing played out at the time,” Suhr said.
Hadley Robinson, a former editor of Mission Local, said she was ten feet away on Valencia near the police station at around 5:25 p.m. when she heard police saying, “back up or put your hands up,” to a man who was in the parking lot with some officers.
Robinson said she was unconcerned and did not think the man had a gun. Then, he backed up into Valencia Street, pulled out a gun and opened fire at the officers in the lot. “There were a bunch of rounds between him and the police and somehow they (the police) got him down,” she said. “He was not dead, but they had him on the ground,” she said.
According to police spokesperson Officer Albie Esparza, there were no pellets or cartridges discovered at the crime scene, indicating that the suspect did not fire the BB gun.
More than a dozen police quickly emerged onto the streets, closing off Valencia at 17th Street and clearing the streets. The station is between 17th and 18th Streets on the West side of Valencia.
“I don’t know what the guy was doing in the parking lot in the first place,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the guy was “kind of older, thin and with greying hair.”
Police closed Valencia Street from 17th to 19th. “Please advise motorists and ped/bicyclists to avoid area,” the police advised.
Police will address the community in a town hall meeting in the next couple day with a picture of the weapon that the suspect brandished, Suhr said.
“I know a lot of people are concerned with what’s going on nationally, as far as officer safety,” Suhr said referring to the two police officers gunned down in New York as they sat inside their patrol car . “We are aware of it as anyone. Officers are looking out for one another, but we have a job to do.”
Update January 5: The victim of the police shooting has been identified as 32-year-old Matthew Hoffman and SFPD have released a suicide note he wrote before the shooting. Read more here.
First published at 6 p.m.