On the same day that lawyers for the family of 20-year-old Amilcar Pérez-López filed a federal law suit challenging the police account of what happened on the night of Feb. 26th, friends and allies held a vigil and procession that took some of the evidence to the Mission Police Station.

As the mourners arrived, officers faced them, lining up on the sidewalk where the names of dozens of police shooting victims had been written in chalk.  Father Richard Smith from St. John’s Episcopal Church who earlier this month traveled with the body of Pérez-López to Guatemala,  held up the diagrams from a private autopsy that lawyers say shows Pérez-López was shot from behind as he tried to run away from two plainclothes officers.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has said the officers wore badges identifying themselves and acted in self-defense against a knife-wielding Pérez-López.

Eyewitnesses have contradicted that account saying the Guatemalan immigrant dropped the knife and was away running from police when they fired at him.

Tonight’s vigil started in front of the house on Folsom Street where the incident took place. Many of those in the crowd were Folsom Street neighbors. “The whole neighborhood has been traumatized,” said Carin McKay who has lived on the block for 10 years and runs a catering business. “We came home to see the body on the street for hours.”

Neighbors and allies gathered on Folsom Street near 24th at 6 p.m. Friday. Photo by Lydia Chávez

She pointed to the house across the street where a family was sitting in the living room on the night of the incident. The shots fired by police hit close to their front window and have been marked with tape. “You can see how close those shots came to hurting someone in the family,” McKay said.

A & B mark the spots where the bullets hit on the night of the incident. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Arnoldo Casillas of the Casillas, Moreno & Associates law firm in Los Angeles, who is representing the family walked with the mourners. “You have never seen such a contrast from the official version and the evidence,” he said, adding that he expects a delay in the trial while the city conducts a criminal investigation “We would support that,” he said adding that he hopes federal investigators will be involved.

The two officers who fired the shots – Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli – were on administrative leave, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that they are now back on active duty.

After a brief blessing and a few words from the organizers, the vigil proceeded west on 24th Street and then south on Mission Street to the Mission District police Station on Valencia Street.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Picking up bystanders and growing to about 150 people the protesters ran into a group of cyclists at 18th Street and Valencia. The cyclists cheered in support as the groups photographed one another.

At the Mission Station, the group was joined by the parents of Alex Nieto, who was shot and killed by police on March 21, 2014 on Bernal Hill.  Elvira and Refugio Nieto held a banner remembering their son and stood quietly listening to the speakers.

Father Richard Smith spoke about the private autopsy showing six bullets entering Pérez-López from the back. He also called for a lay down to remember the two hours that the young man’s body stayed on Folsom Street.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

As the group headed toward St. John’s Episcopal Church on Julian Street, the marchers lined their candles up in front of the booted police officers, leaving behind a line of lit candles.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Related Content: Lawyers Say Police Shot 20-Year-Old in the Back

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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