San Francisco’s District Attorney will not be filing criminal charges against officers involved in two separate shootings that led to the deaths of Luis Gongora Pat and Mario Woods.
D.A. Gascon said in a statement that “use of force could only be charged if we can prove it was unreasonable for the officer to be in fear for their life or someone else’s,” referring to the high legal standard under which the cases are prosecuted.
In the case of Mario Woods, who was armed with a knife, officers used several rounds of non-lethal force. Officers also used non-lethal force with Gongora Pat. However, in the latter, case, early on, witnesses disputed the officer accounts, saying Gongora Pat’s knife was in his waistband and that he did not charge at the officers.
Those witnesses, however, were in the minority, according to the DA’s report. “Although there were some variances, many of these witnesses broadly corroborated the officers’ accounts insofar as: (1) the officers gave verbal commands; (2) the officers used less-than-lethal force before resorting to lethal force; and (3) Gongora, armed with a knife, moved toward Sergeant Steger,” the report concluded.
The DA’s internal investigation found no criminal wrongdoing in both of the officer-involved shootings and concluded that officers acted within the law. Mario Woods died in December 2015, after police were called to reports of a man with a knife in the Bayview district. The incident was captured on multiple cameras and spread through the internet.
Police fatally shot Luis Gongora Pat five months later, in April 2016, after members of a homeless outreach team called police to 15th and Shotwell streets. A video recording from across the street showed the events leading to the last minute before the shooting happened. Police are shown walking out and firing rubber bullets from a less-than-lethal weapon before handguns were used.
A lawyer representing the family of Gongora Pat spoke to press at the steps of the Hall of Justice following the release of Gascon’s decision. The lawyer, Adante Pointer from the offices of John Burris, said there had been “twin miscarriage of justice” today in relation to the shooting incidents. He called for the District Attorney and police officers to be held accountable for their actions.
“There is not two systems of law, one afforded to police and one for the common man and woman of San Francisco,” Pointer said.
“What we call for is that no one should be above the law, officers included,” Pointer said. “The community is unwilling to accept these results.”
Both the families of Mario Woods and Gongora Pat were called yesterday and invited to meet with the District Attorney this morning.
But in the case of Gongora Pat, the family would not be allowed to bring an interpreter in. Only family would be allowed into the office, they said. The family instead declined to meet with Gascon.
Mario Woods’ mother lives in Sacramento and was unable to get the day off of work.
Gongora Pat’s family members held back tears as they met with the press this morning. Two of his cousins, Luis Poot Pat and Carlos Poot Pat, accused Gascon of being a coward for failing to represent the public and “do his job.”
Gongora Pat’s cousin, Luis Armando, called on Gascon to resign.
“This is a disgrace to the law enforcement institution. Not all the police are killers, but these bad elements make the entire department look bad. It’s very lamentable,” Poot Pat said.
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Bayview, issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, stating that “Decisions like this only serve to undermine community-police relationships and communicate that we do not exist in a fair and equal judicial system. Instead, we seemingly hold the transgressions of police officers to a different standard of justice than the one we hold all other citizens.”
Adriana Camarena, the organizer that has served as the family’s translator and unofficial representative, said it’s possible that the Mexican government could launch its own complaint with the Department of Justice.
Pointer, the lawyer, said the family has filed a civil suit against the city and the officers involved in the shooting. When asked how the case would be argued, given that the testimony in the reports favors the version of events officers described, Pointer said, “We have to analyze every witness statement to see if there is a bias, if the vantage point was clear, and compare those statements versus what’s been summarized in the report.”