District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Friday declined to file charges against the 10 police officers who shot at Jesus Delgado Duarte 99 times after he fired once at the officers in March, 2018. Delgado, who was lying in the trunk of a Honda Civic at 21st and Capp streets, died instantly.
While the six-minute encounter between police and Delgado raised serious questions about how the officers responded to the incident, Boudin decided that the evidence “supported the conclusion that the officers in this case acted in lawful self-defense when shooting Mr. Delgado-Duarte.”
Boudin’s decision in Delgado’s case places him in an awkward place with Delgado’s family.
“Your family gets justice the day I take office,” he told Delgado’s family, looking into their eyes during an October, 2019, debate at Mission High School, while he was running for District Attorney.
Echoing a similar softening of his comments at a subsequent debate, Boudin told Mission Local in an interview today that his promise to the family was broader than Delgado’s case. “Justice is not as simple as whether we file charges in one case,” he said. “Justice is about having independence, integrity and compassion in every decision we make. And we have done that.”
Though he declined to file charges in three cases on Friday, the DA in December initiated charges against police in three other separate cases — including charging an officer with manslaughter for an on-duty shooting, a first in San Francisco.
But in “multiple meetings,” Boudin had to tell Delgado’s parents that he could not do the same in their son’s case — in which video shows Delgado fired once from a handgun at the officers before they unleashed the barrage of gunfire.
The DA emphasized that the decision was not a “blessing” on the fact that police fired 99 shots at Delgado, especially when officers knew that a woman, Cristina Juarez, remained in the back seat of the car and did not see her as a threat. She was not harmed during the fusillade.
Instead, the decision was a reflection of the fact that police can lawfully return fire if a person shoots at them, Boudin said.
The DA said conveying this to Delgado’s family, as with other families in their shoes, is “one of the hardest parts of my job.”
But Adriana Camarena, an advocate who works with families of police shooting victims, including Delgado’s family, said she was “disappointed” and “baffled” by Boudin’s decision.
“Boudin promised his family justice,” Camarena said. “How’s this justice? And what the D.A. may not understand yet is that his decision sets our community to grieve Adolfo once again, alongside his family, with an unexpectedly renewed sense of disappointment in the role the D.A.’s office plays in perpetuating injustice.”
Delgado’s family could not immediately be reached for comment.
As detailed by a Mission Local examination of the available investigative files of the incident — a file swelling to more than 3,000 pages — the police shooting of Delgado was a fast-moving and complicated incident, with on-edge police officers on one side and a distressed DACA recipient on the other. At the time, Delgado may have faced potential deportation to Mexico if he surrendered.
On March 6, 2018, Delgado allegedly robbed a man at gunpoint. When police arrived, Delgado jumped into the back of a Honda Civic, a getaway car police prevented from escaping.
Over the course of roughly six minutes, a cordon of police officers surrounded Delgado as he hid in the trunk of the car.
The 19-year-old refused to show one of his hands, which was carrying a handgun, despite a chorus of competing commands by police to surrender. His friend, Victor Navarro-Flores, who had been at the wheel of the car and later surrendered to police, said Delgado told him: “Dude, I’m sorry for putting you through this, but I’m not going back to jail and I’m not getting deported.”
It’s unclear if Delgado would have eventually surrendered with more time. Police would never find out.
One bilingual officer, Milen Banegas, came on the scene and took control of a police cruiser PA to cut through the competing commands of officers and plead with the young man in Spanish to show his hands and exit the trunk.
Banegas, who stood closest to Delago, told investigators shortly after the incident that she saw Delgado experience a range of swinging emotions — at one point making the Sign of the Cross. It was “as if he’s having this psychotic episode … it’s like, he was trying to decide what to do,” she told investigators.
But Banegas’s attempts to draw Delgado out of the trunk would be short-lived. Another Officer, Bryan Santana — without coordinating with Banegas beforehand — decided to shoot Delgado with a beanbag round, without properly warning the young man, a potential contravention of policy.
When the beanbag round hit Delgado, the young man’s face turned to “rage,” Banegas recalled. Seconds later, he shot at the officers, who responded with a hail of gunfire, killing Delgado.
Juarez, an unarmed friend of Delgado’s, was in the back seat the entire time.
“We know that this finding may cause Mr. Delgado-Duarte’s family pain, but we do hope they understand the scrutiny with which we evaluated this case and that our decision also brings them closure for their painful loss,” said Lateef Gray, the head of the District Attorney’s Independent Investigations Unit, which investigates police shootings and misconduct.
He added: “Although we did not find a violation of the law, the number of shots fired by police calls out for immediate changes to be implemented to ensure that innocent bystanders are not hurt by officer-involved shootings.”
In-custody death of Christopher Kliment
Boudin also declined to file charges against the officers involved in the in-custody death of Christopher Kliment, a January, 2019, incident at the CPMC Mission-Bernal emergency room in which details have remained hazy. Following the incident, the San Francisco Police Department did not release body-camera footage, as it has done in police shooting cases.
In the DA’s telling, on Jan. 5, 2019, Kliment refused to leave the ER after being discharged, yelling at staff and grabbing medical equipment.
At the ER on a different matter, SFPD officers Brett Grennell and Louis Hargreaves attempted to get the defiant Kliment to leave. But a tussle ensued, with Kliment purportedly banging his head against the floor and the side of a table, even as he was handcuffed. More officers arrived to restrain him.
The hospital refused to readmit Kliment based on his mental state and previous behavior, and as he was waiting in an ambulance to go to another hospital, he “lost consciousness and stopped breathing,” the DA’s office found.
After being readmitted into CPMC, Kliment died two days later.
The Medical Examiner found that the death “accidental” — caused by a negative reaction to methamphetamine, “cannabinoid” intoxication, and the stress of police restraints. “As a result of the lack of evidence suggesting that his death had been caused by officers, the IIB Unit found no officer wrongdoing,” the DA’s office said.
In addition to the two cases in which the subject died, Boudin also declined to file charges against the officers who used force on Lafayette Reed, a man who was caught in a physical altercation with multiple police officers at the Westfield Mall in September, 2019.