The District Attorney announced Friday that the four officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alex Nieto in March 2014 on Bernal Hill, will not face criminal charges. The prosecutor determined the shooting was in self defense.
KTVU reports that District Attorney’s office said Sergeant Jason Sawyer, Officer Richard Schiff, Officer Roger Morse and Officer Nathan Chew acted “lawfully in self-defense and in the defense of others when they discharged their weapons.”
The Justice and Amor for Alex Nieto Coalition, the group that’s been organizing protests since the 28-year-old’s death, issued a statement following Friday’s news condemning the decision:
It doesn’t work to have the police investigate themselves.It doesn’t work to have prosecutors, who are colleagues of police, lead investigations into police crimes. It doesn’t work to have a former Chief of Police act as prosecutor in a police shooting. It doesn’t work to reward and promote officers who are suspects in an open investigation.
As KQED reports, the District Attorney spoke to several witnesses who report that Nieto was behaving erratically. One witness told the prosecutor that Nieto had threatened his dog with a Taser. Nieto was a trained security guard, and carried a Taser to work. Two other witnesses who believed Nieto was carrying a gun called 911.
Statements from the officers who first arrived on scene, Sergeant Sawyer and Officer Schiff, detail Nieto acting aggressively as they approached him. When they called to him, shouting “Let me see your hands!” Nieto continued to walked towards them and appeared to draw his weapon.
Based on how he took the Taser out of its holster, both officers say they believed it to be a semi-automatic pistol that Nieto intended to fire at them. They say they shot in defense of their own lives. After a few shots were fired, officers report that Nieto continued to point his weapon at them.
Nieto then fell to the ground, which Sawyer and Schiff say they thought was a tactical maneuver because his weapon was still pointing towards the officers.
At about this point, Officers Morse and Chew arrived on scene in their vehicle, driving past about 15 other officers who were running up the hill. When Morse and Chew got out of their vehicle they saw Nieto on the ground, but say his head was still up and the laser sight of the Taser was aiming at the approaching officers. They also fired shots at Nieto .
Once Nieto stopped moving, officers called paramedics who determined Nieto had died at the scene.
The Nieto family’s legal team has said they have a witness who says they never saw Nieto point his Taser at officers. Friends and family have also described Nieto as a pacifist and trained security guard who would never point a weapon at police.
The Nieto coalition called on supporters to rally outside San Francisco Superior Court earlier today. There is also an ongoing civil trial against the city and police department.
This is a developing story and we’ll update with additional information as warranted.