The two San Francisco Police officers who shot Jamaica Hampton, a man armed with a glass bottle on Mission and 23rd streets in December, critically injuring him, are returning to regular duty, the San Francisco Police Department said Thursday.
Officer Sterling Hayes, a field training officer at Mission Station, and Officer Christopher Flores, a rookie, “are being returned to duty in the Field Operations Bureau,” David Stevenson, a department spokesman, wrote in an email.
The “field operations bureau” can mean any district station, such as Mission or Tenderloin stations. The decision on which station or stations Hayes and Flores are being sent to, as well as their roles, “has not been made at this time,” Stevenson wrote.
Following the shooting of Jamaica Hampton on Dec. 7, both Hayes and Flores were assigned to “nonpatrol duties,” per a department spokesperson.
Chief Bill Scott, together with the SFPD’s “return-to-duty” panel — composed of higher-ups who assess an officer’s fitness for duty if the officer shoots someone — made the decision leading up to Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting. Scott announced the decision to commissioners Wednesday night in closed session.
“Speaking in general terms, the Chief considers all facts available at the time that a decision is made,” Stevenson wrote regarding the decision-making process. “The Chief will also take into account the status of administrative and criminal investigations into an officer-involved shooting.”
“The process also includes consideration for the well-being and due process rights of the officer(s) involved in the incident,” Stevenson added.
On the morning of Dec. 7, Hayes, a training officer, and Flores, his trainee, stopped Hampton on the corner of 23rd and Mission streets. Police allege, and video footage shows, that Hampton moved to attack Hayes and subsequently assaulted Flores with a glass bottle. A foot chase on 23rd Street ensued.
As Hampton ran in the direction of Hayes, the officer fired at Hampton six times, striking him twice. While Hampton was crawling on the ground, incapacitated, Flores fired once at Hampton, striking him in one of his limbs.
“Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!” Hayes shouted at his trainee Flores after Flores fired the final shot at Hampton.
The District Attorney subsequently charged Hampton with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault on a police officer, threat to an executive officer, and vandalism.
Hampton’s left leg was amputated last Thursday. Danielle Harris, the deputy public defender representing Hampton in his criminal case, said at Wednesday’s Police Commission hearing that her client has also suffered “massive nerve damage in his left hand and arm,” his dominant side, and a portion of right thumb was amputated. Harris confirmed that Hampton was shot in his right and left legs, and in his left arm.
Harris, who is also the director of public policy and the lead homicide attorney at the Public Defender’s Office, told Mission Local on Friday that she was “dismayed” to hear that Hayes and Flores will be “back on the street after they severely injured Jamaica and endangered everyone in the area that morning.”
“The decision to put these cops back on the street suggests that SFPD condones the use of excessive force against unarmed persons, devaluing the safety of those it serves,” she added.
Harris argued to commissioners Wednesday night that Hayes and Flores should not be returned to regular duty. “Officer Hayes proved he could fend off Mr. Hampton without shooting him, and without injury to either one of them,” she said. “Mr. Hampton was not attacking Officer Hayes when Officer Hayes shot him.”
Moreover, she told Mission Local that she was “extremely concerned” at returning the rookie Flores to duty. Flores, she argued, shot Hampton “when he was down on his knees, critically wounded, unarmed, and non-threatening — which is why Officer Hayes ordered Flores to, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ and has repeatedly said that he gave those orders because there was no threat at that time.”
Flores is still within his probationary period, and he could have been summarily dismissed by Scott.
Both Hayes and Flores’s actions are still subject to investigations by SFPD’s Internal Affairs Division, the District Attorney, and the Department of Police Accountability. A determination on whether Hayes and Flores’s use of deadly force followed department policy — and whether they will be disciplined — will be decided by SFPD’s Firearm Discharge Review Board.
This will happen “at a later date,” according to Stevenson.