In the time it takes to tie a shoelace, a night of Warriors-related revelry was shattered by another officer-involved shooting in San Francisco
At 12:17 a.m. June 9, San Francisco Police Department Officer Joshua Cabillo stepped out of the passenger side of a patrol car on Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street, a block from Broadway. He’d spotted four heavyset guys drinking beers on the corner after the Waaaaarriorrrrrrrrrs’ sweeping victory. He approached them alone while his partner parked the car.
Carrying an open alcohol container is a citable offense. A veteran cop might have written up a ticket, or perhaps let the revelers off with a warning. Either way, according to Carl T, a retired 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, it’s a small infraction. The cop’s goal should have been to get the guys moving to avoid further hassle during a crowded, impromptu party night.
Instead, this particular cop decided to be aggressive. What transpired was a 36-second interaction followed by a 7-second pursuit that concluded with Cabillo shooting Oliver Barcenas, 28, in the back as Barcenas ran away.
Police say two shots were fired, but the distorted audio on the videos of the incident makes it difficult to tell if there were two, three, or even four shots. Barcenas received emergency care at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and was released June 15, according to hospital officials. He’s now being held in county jail on charges of delaying an officer, carrying a concealed firearm, exhibiting a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At the SFPD’s town hall meeting last week, police brass showed four videos from the scene: two from the officers’ body cameras and two from nearby businesses security cameras. Since being released online, the videos have collectively garnered nearly 70,000 views.
Watching the films at full speed, it is not readily apparent if Barcenas had a gun. But, watching frame by frame, it becomes clear that Barcenas did appear to have a gun, and that he tossed it under a car as Cabillo pursued him. It also becomes clear that Cabillo shot Barcenas around two seconds after he dropped it.
Barcenas has a lengthy criminal record — he was described by the SFPD as a “known Norteño” and had actually been shot by police before, in 2012 — but it seems unlikely that Cabillo would have known that when he flagged down the men, pursued Barcenas, and ultimately shot him.
Currently on administrative leave as department policy requires, Cabillo has a record of his own. He was cleared in the 2012 death of 15-year-old Derrick Gaines, whom Cabillo, then an officer in South San Francisco’s police department, shot in the neck after the boy allegedly reached for a gun. This was a high-profile shooting, and South City paid Gaines’s family a $250,000 settlement, but admitted no wrongdoing. In 2015, Cabillo, who was subsequently hired by the SFPD, was also one of a group of four officers who was sued by the ACLU on behalf of 25-year-old Travis Ian Hall (one of the other officers sued, Anthony Montoya, and is now the president of the police officers’ union). The case resulted in a $40,000 settlement, also without the city admitting any wrongdoing.
After Barcenas was shot, an angry, profane crowd surrounded members of the SFPD. They were angry because they saw, in person, what thousands of viewers of the videos have seen: Cabillo, clearly, shot a fleeing man in the back. That is inarguable. But the particulars of this shooting are more complex than they appear at first blush. So, Mission Local has taken the available footage and broken it down, frame-by-frame, and consulted several experts in policing, law, and use of force to weigh in. (Time codes used are seconds from Cabillo’s body camera and the time the police reported.)
12:17:13 a.m.: Cabillo’s body camera records him exiting the patrol car, no audio.
12:17:22 a.m.: Beer bottle visible in one man’s hand.
“You want us to leave, man?” one of the men asks Cabillo.
12:17:25 a.m.: “Nah, I don’t, ha, you guys are detained, I wanna talk to you. What do you guys think this is, man?” asks Cabillo, as he grabs the beer bottle from the guy’s hand.
“I don’t know, San Francisco?” retorts another guy.
“What’d we do?”
“What do you mean?”
“What are we doing wrong?”
Cabillo: “You got open containers out here!”
12:17:40 a.m.: Barcenas: “Not me, yo,” as he turns to go.
“So we spill it out and that’s it,” offers another guy.
“Hold on man, you ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Cabillo says to Barcenas.
“Alright, alright. My bad, my bad,” said Barcenas.
“We’ll just spill it out and that’s it,” one of the guys repeats.
“Haha, yeah, no one’s going anywhere,” Cabillo responds.
12:17:49 a.m. Almost before Cabillo has finished his sentence, Barcenas makes a run for it.
12:17:53 a.m.: Barcenas removes and discards his jacket. An audible clank is heard, which is likely the beer bottle Cabillo grabbed earlier being dropped.
12:17:53 a.m.: In the circle is the discarded jacket. Cabillo begins radioing in, “Foot pursuit. Adam Thirteen David.” This code would indicate a pair of partners on swing shift from Central Station.
12:17:54 a.m.: Barcenas runs with his hand near his waistband. Potentially, this is the earliest moment Cabillo could have seen Barcenas remove a gun from his waistband. The next several images are fractions of the same second.
12:17:54 a.m.: Potential object seen in Barcenas’ hand — which Cabillo may have seen a glimpse of, prior to unholstering his own gun.
12:17:54 a.m.: Potential object seen in Barcenas’ hand as he passes a lit storefront. Sound of Cabillo unholstering his gun.
12:17:54 a.m.: Another angle of the potential object seen in Barcenas’ hand from a nearby business security camera.
12:17:54 a.m.: Barcenas’ waistband exposed.
12:17:55 a.m.: Barcenas in mid-stride, potentially tossing an object into the street. The next several images are fractions of the same second.
12:17:55 a.m.: Barcenas’ weight shifts as he appears to toss the object.
12:17:55 a.m.: Barcenas potentially tossing object into the street, seen from a different angle from another businesses security camera.
12:17:55 a.m.: Object seen sliding in the street underneath a nearby parked car.
12:17:55 a.m.: Object seen sliding in the street from different angle.
12:17:56 a.m.: With Cabillo’s gun pointed at Barcenas’ back, Cabillo yells “Dude!”
12:17:56 a.m.: Cabillo fires the first shot while about six feet from Barcenas. The suspect is passing through a crowd of at least three people. This shot is fired seven seconds after the pursuit began — and approximately two seconds after Barcenas dropped the object Cabillo would later identify as a gun.
12:17:57 a.m.: Second shot fired. Barcenas falls.
12:17:57 a.m.: Cabillo yells, “Get down!” and possibly fires again. At least one witness claims to have heard three shots. Audio is distorted due to Cabillo’s shouting.
12:17:58 a.m.: Another loud noise — that could be a gunshot, but is distorted, and could be Cabillo shouting, “Get down!” again. The suspect, who has been shot, is down.
12:18:00 a.m.: “Get down!” Cabillo shouts again at the motionless man he’s standing over.
12:18:04 a.m.: Cabillo, to his trailing partner: “Dude, call uh … dude he had a fucking … fucking gun on him!” His voice shakes like someone whose brain is working on overdrive to asses the situation.
12:18:09 a.m.: “Hey, dude?” Cabillo says to Barcenas on the sidewalk. No response.
12:18:10 a.m.: “Call a 408!” Cabillo yells repeatedly to his partner. This is code for an ambulance.
12:18:11 a.m.: Cabillo seen from his partner’s body camera.
12:18:13 a.m.: Same as above.
12:18:15 a.m.: “I can’t! My radio’s broke!” the partner yells back and turns to restrain a group of Barcenas’ friends who were attracted by the shots.
12:18:19 a.m.: As if recalling training, Cabillo speaks as calmly as he can into his own functioning radio. “Adam Thirteen David. Shots fired. We’re gonna need medics. Code three.” Again, he’s indicating that a pair of partners are on swing shift from Central Station. Code three means someone is critically injured, so lights and sirens should be used.
12:18:24 a.m.: “That guy just shot at him for no reason!” someone yells from behind Cabillo.
12:18:26 a.m.: Cabillo stands over Barcenas — a knife is visible nearby. Then, “Dude, dude, are you all right?” he asks the limp man. Still no response.
12:18:28 a.m.: Cabillo checks Barcenas’ body; a shiny object near his pocket turns out to be keys.
12:18:29 a.m.: Cabillo checks both sides of Barcenas’ body; you can hear people hollering in the background.
12:18:33 a.m.: One of Barcenas’ friends picks up his jacket. “You just shot your fucking weapon for no fucking reason, man!”
12:18:39 a.m.: Cabillo starts yelling “Get back!” incessantly, but in vain. Warriors fans are descending on him.
12:18:43 a.m.: “1025. 406! We need a 406 here,” Cabrillo’s says into the radio. He’s panicked. A 1025 is a request for help to everyone in the district. A 406 is an SOS asking everyone in the city to respond; it’s usually reserved for when an officer’s down or has been shot.
Very quickly, an angry crowd starts to form. Some check on Barcenas, but not before hitting record on their phones.
The crowd has seen what is also apparent from the officer’s body cam — an officer shooting a man in the back. Seemingly just for running from him.
12:19:17 a.m.: Cabillo picks up the dropped knife from the ground as an angry crowd of a dozen people converges on him, yelling and jostling among themselves.
12:19:25 a.m.: A man with dreadlocks appears to take the opportunity while Cabillo is alone and vulnerable to take a swing at him.
12:19:29 a.m.: “What the fuck did you do?!” yells one of Barcenas’ friends while another yells, “You shot [him]!” before swinging at the officer as well.
12:19:34 a.m.: Backup arrives. Several officers push the crowd back.
12:19:58 a.m.: Cabillo screams, “We need a … we need a 406! Shots fired!” A calm cop comes to Cabillo’s side to reassure him and get the lowdown. “Listen, you don’t need everyone,” he says in response to the 406 call. “You’re all right. It’s all right. You’re all right. We don’t need everyone in the city. What’s goin’ on?”
“He’s been … he’s got two … he’s two … shots fired,” Cabillo reports.
“Okay. All right. All right.”
12:20:12 a.m.: Cabillo pleads, “I need a [sic] … He had a firearm and he was … I don’t know where it is! I need to back people up and we need to find that gun! He had like a TEC 9!”
A swarm of officers descends on the block and moves quickly to secure the area. Someone shows up to assess Barcenas and Cabillo starts looking for that gun.
A TEC 9, incidentally, was the weapon Barcenas was accused of pulling on now-Assistant Chief Toney Chaplin in 2012. Chaplin shot him during that incident, a shooting that sparked angry protests but was ultimately ruled as justified by the District Attorney. Officers this time around would discover a different firearm.
12:20:00 a.m.: On the other side of the crowd and the row of parked cars, another officer has arrived and stands on what appears to be a gun near where Barcenas threw the object.
12:20:01 a.m.: “Hey, I got a gun here!” the officer shouts to the radio-less partner. Beneath his boot is presumably the Glock with a fixed laser and an illegal extended magazine that was recovered from the scene.
Experts weigh in:
The seven seconds of footage between the moment Barcenas made a break for it and hit the pavement with a bullet in his back have been scrutinized by thousands of eyes, and will surely be pored over by many more.
We spoke to several interested parties — a former longtime SFPD cop, a retired judge, a police policy lawyer and a city politician. All felt that the officer’s actions were unwarranted.
“At no point in this video,” says Carl T, the retired 32-year SFPD veteran, “do I see a justification for deadly force.”
This, of course, prompts the inevitable argument that one camera angle doesn’t paint the whole picture.
In all angles, the videos reveal that within seconds of potentially seeing a gun — which was immediately discarded — Cabillo un-holstered his weapon and fired.
And that’s interesting. Because if Cabillo was able to react to seeing a gun — why then did he fail to react to seeing Barcenas throw it away?
There’s also the disturbing fact that, at the moment the officer fired, Barcenas was next to at least three innocent bystanders. Barcenas is literally shoulder to shoulder with them.
SFPD policy regulating the use of deadly force allows for it “only as a last resort when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible to protect the safety of the public and police officers.”
In certain circumstances, deadly force can be used in self-defense, in the defense of others, and to apprehend someone if they’re threatening to kill someone.
Officers are supposed to give a verbal warning and exercise reasonable care for the public. Of course, there are caveats and exceptions to all of these rules, which is why it is so rare for cops to face repercussions for not following procedures.
According to John Crew, an attorney and a retired police practices expert for the ACLU, “The officer is going to claim he fired the shot in defense of himself or others.”
The question for investigators is, “‘Did the officer have reasonable cause to believe that he or another person was ‘in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury?’”
Carl T — who legally changed his name from Tennenbaum — hypothesizes: “Let’s say he did see the gun and saw him throw it. At least now one is out of the way. Okay, so maybe he assumed there were more. But that’s not realistic.”
“It’s a seven-second pursuit and it looks like the cop’s gaining on him; he’s almost within arm’s reach. When I used to pursue, we were trained in the academy, you know, you can push them and that momentum, that’ll take them down,” he said.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor standardized the reasonableness of a law enforcement officer’s use of force. The pertinent question is whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable based on the what the officer knew at the time.
Retired superior court judge LaDoris H. Cordell weighed in on whether this officer should be prosecuted.
The investigations, she said, will “determine ‘What did the officer know and see at the time, and did this guy pose a threat at the moment [the officer] fired?’”
The second question for investigators, she said, is: Should this officer be disciplined, and did he violate any rules or SFPD use-of-force policies?
Cordell adds, “I have a problem saying that the shooting is justified, solely based on video one. There are alternatives — cordon, call other officers. He had I.D., a good photo from his body cam. I don’t see a threat this person posed, once the gun was tossed, to anyone.”
Carl T said the actions go back to how officers are being trained.
“There’s always the threat of a fatal encounter,” he says. “But they overteach to the worst-case scenario. They don’t teach enough about how to deal with people.”
“It’s systemic,” he continues. “They’re trying to reboot to a guardian mentality but they have to undo 100 years of this system, and undo this mentality of, ‘I don’t wanna get my hands dirty.’”
“There’s a third mentality called the coward mindset,” says Carl T. “Younger cops are afraid.”
“These officers are going 0 to 60 without shifting gears,” T says. “We’ve lost a lot of the human touch and personal touch and these younger cops don’t know how to do verbal persuasion.”
In this case, Caballo’s initial approach to the four suspects began with an aggressive tone.
Crew says the SFPD generally doesn’t hold officers accountable to its policy standards and that implementing administrative accountability would be a deterrent. That, he said, fails to happen in San Francisco. “That’s the main reason we have an ongoing problem with avoidable police violence.”
People, notes Carl T, “are going to their extremes saying ‘Well, he shouldn’t have run,’ and ‘He shouldn’t have overreacted.’ There’s no happy medium.”
OIS Case # 180427269 – BWC Footage of Officer #1, OIS Case # 180427269 – BWC Footage of Officer #2, OIS Case # 180427269 – Surveillance Camera Footage #1, and OIS Case # 180427269 – Surveillance Camera Footage #2 from San Francisco Police on Vimeo.