More than 30 neighbors, activists and friends of Amilcar Perez-López gathered Sunday evening to mourn the loss of the 21-year old Guatemalan man killed by San Francisco police officers on Thursday night and offered a sharply different version of the incident.
While some neighbors said earlier that López had been drinking all day and attempted to steal a bicycle with a knife when he was shot and killed by police last Thursday at 9:45 p.m on Folsom and 25th Streets; others told a different story on Sunday night. Their story – including eyewitness accounts – indicate there was confusion by police on who was the victim – in part, because Perez-López had a knife.
One of his roommates, who declined to give his name, said López was on the street when a person known to the area took his cellphone and took off on a bicycle. López went into his house to get a knife to recover his phone. Then, plainclothes cops appeared “from out of nowhere and one grabbed him from behind,” said López’s roommate, who saw the incident.
Eduardo Román, a contractor who often used to work with López for a refrigerator maintenance company, said the two had been working on Thursday at a nearby restaurant on 21st and South Van Ness before he dropped off López at around 8:30 p.m. Little more than an hour later, López had been shot and killed by police.
When Román dropped him off, Román said, López was not drunk and had not been drinking on the job, but it is possible that he had a few drinks after work.
On the night of the incident, police reported that López was chasing another man on Folsom at 9:45 p.m. But instead of him chasing someone who had taken his cell phone, police reported that López had allegedly been trying to steal the bicycle of the man he was chasing.
“According to several witnesses, the officers ordered the suspect to drop the knife,” wrote Sergeant Monica MacDonald in a description of the incident on that Thursday night. “The situation escalated and the officers fired at the suspect.”
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said that evening that the officers “fired between four and six times, which is consistent with the casings recovered from the scene.”
The two officers were placed on administrative leave.
On Sunday night activists, neighbors, and some friends of López gathered at the vigil to speak against the use of force by police. They described López as a short man –he was only 5’0, who did not speak English and would often work 12-14 hour shifts to cover his multiple jobs in construction and restaurants.
At the vigil, Román and his family remembered López and described his character.
“He was hard working, honest and had great aspirations to get ahead in life and support his family,” said Román. “He didn’t come here to steal, he came here to work.”
Despite the language barrier, people took turns to stress the importance of collectively demanding justice for López’s death.
“He lived with me, we worked together. He was a good guy. I am here to help him because he doesn’t have family here. I want justice for him, and let’s see what we can do for him,” said López roommate.
“I didn’t know him, but we have long struggle ahead. We have to demand justice, remember him and help his family to serve him justice,” said Florencia Rojo, a neighbor present at the vigil.
“We have to talk, get to know each other and continue to unite,” said Evelyn Gutierrez, a mother of two present at the vigil.
As for Román, he said that “I will try to help his family.”
The police will hold a community meeting tonight at 6 p.m., at Cesar Chavez Elementary. Members of the community, however, will gather at 5 p.m., as some mentioned they would discuss a plan of action.