SF police respond to a man holding a knife to his neck

Police officers at the scene of an incident at 24th and Mission streets Sunday morning. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros

A man holding a knife to his own throat elicited a large police response Sunday morning at 23rd and Mission streets, according to eyewitnesses.

Around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, witness David Ortiz described seeing a man who looked like he might have been around 60 years old and homeless in the middle of the street on 23rd and Mission streets, holding a knife to his neck.

An officer on motorcycle arrived on the scene, followed by three additional officers with what looked like non-lethal projectile guns, Ortiz said. The officers then shot the man three times in the chest with the non-lethal weapon, but Ortiz said it didn’t have the desired effect.

Another witness, Mark K., said he only heard the police fire one shot of what was likely the non-lethal weapon.

Police then pointed a different weapon at the man, according to Ortiz, and told him he needed to get on the ground immediately — at which point the man complied. He was then taken into an ambulance.

Another male witness, who chose to remain anonymous, said he saw the police shoot the man three times with what he thought were beanbag rounds, although the police didn’t fire all at once, he said. That witness also said he saw the man push a woman to the ground after she tried to approach him and take the knife from his hand. The witness said he heard the woman identify herself as the man’s sister, and that it wasn’t the first time he had done something like this.

Indeed, video of nearly the entire incident begins with a man wandering in the middle of street in front of Mexican restaurant La Corneta as a police officer approaches the man but keeps his distance. Within minutes, more police arrive as a crowd begins to form.

A woman then approaches the man, but the video shows him grabbing her by the neck and throwing her to the ground. She is then taken away by police. Officers continue to surround the man and point what look to be non-lethal firearms at him.

During the six-minute video, the man appears to have been shot three times by the non-lethal firearms. Shortly after the last round was fired, the man appears to voluntarily fall to his knees and begin a verbal exchange with the officers. He then lies on the ground, prone, as officers approach.

Miguel Angel, who shot the video from a store at 23rd and Mission, said he was impressed the officers did not use bullets on the man.

“In some cases they automatically kill the guy, so this case is good,” he said.

Although it is likely that there have been other instances of police using de-escalation tactics, this is the second such incident in the neighborhood in recent weeks that eyewitnesses have reported to Mission Local.

It is unclear if the officers on the scene had training in the SFPD’s new use-of-force policy or crisis-intervention training, but Police Chief William “Bill” Scott has said recently that all officers would complete both trainings within the next two years.

An SFPD public information officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson for the Fire Department said the incident appeared only to involve one person, who was reported to be in custody.

Police originally shut down Mission Street between 24th and 23rd streets, but by 11:30 a.m. the incident was reportedly cleared.

This is a developing story and we will add more information as it becomes available.

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