The family of Luis Gongora Pat, the homeless Mexican immigrant police shot and killed in the Mission District in 2016, has settled a federal civil lawsuit with the city of San Francisco.
Although attorneys representing the family would not confirm the settlement nor the amount of the award, court records filed Wednesday reveal that Gongora Pat’s family have reached an agreement with city that must now be ratified by Board of Supervisors. This will likely happen in May.
Until then, all parties are bound to keep the terms of the settlement confidential.
The agreement comes nearly three years after Sgt. Nate Steger and Officer Michael Malone shot 45-year-old Gongora Pat six times at a homeless encampment at 18th and Shotwell streets on April 7, 2016.
The two officers and other civilian witnesses have alleged that Gongora Pat threatened the officers with a large knife, prompting the fatal shooting, while witnesses at the homeless encampment claim Gongora Pat was not wielding the knife, which would cast doubt on the justification for the shooting.
Video of the incident captures the officers shooting Gongora Pat a mere 30 seconds after exiting their vehicles. This raised enduring questions about how — and if — the SFPD properly uses “time and distance” when engaging with people in crisis.
District Attorney George Gascon last May declined to file criminal charges against the officers, sparking protests outside of the Hall of Justice and even Gascon’s home. The fatal shooting was among several that prompted calls for the ouster of Greg Suhr, then the San Francisco Police Chief.
Suhr resigned May 19, 2016, at the request of Mayor Ed Lee, hours after police shot and killed 27-year-old Jessica Williams in Bayview.
The recently settled lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in October 2016, alleges that the SFPD — and, consequently, the City of San Francisco — violated Gongora Pat’s civil rights and that his “wrongful death” was a product of the officers’ negligence.
The lawsuit cites eyewitness accounts and video evidence that Gongora Pat was not facing officers during the shooting that “left him riddled with bullets in his forehead, back, right arm and chest while leaving his wife a widow and his three kids fatherless.” The lawsuit also notes the officers repeatedly gave commands only in English, while Gongora Pat’s primary language was Mayan.
On Monday evening, Gongora Pat’s family members — including his widow, Fidelia del Carmen May Can, who traveled from the home she and Gongora once shared in Yucatan, Mexico — gathered with 30 others who reassembled his memorial where the shooting took place on Shotwell.
His family members had given depositions related to the lawsuit earlier in the day.
“This is the first time the family is at the site where Luis died,” lawyer and advocate Adriana Camarena said to those in the circle. “This is a very special night for them.”