Police car's sirens.
Stock photograph of a San Francisco police car. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Michael Shavers, a San Francisco police officer who shot at a civilian in 2019, in a possible road rage incident while off-duty, has been fired from the department, records show. 

Michael Shavers, a 17-year patrol officer, had been driving in Berkeley on Sept. 13, 2019, when he shot at another driver, left the scene of the shooting and then waited an hour to report the incident to either his local authorities or his own supervisor. 

The other driver fled the scene after being shot at, and was never identified. Shavers was fired for the incident in June.

Chief Bill Scott filed four charges in 2020, and recommended Shavers’ termination to the Police Commission. Five commissioners heard the case in late June and agreed with the police chief, finding that Shavers acted unreasonably in the moments leading up to the shooting and violated multiple policies in the aftermath. 

Instead of de-escalating the situation, the commission found, Shavers appeared to instigate the other driver. At the hearing, the police department attorney, Nicole Pantaleo, called it a “confrontation” of Shavers’ making.  

‘We are not on a Western movie set’

Shavers — who was off-duty at the time and driving his personal Escalade to pick up his son from school — testified that he was exiting I-80 East freeway in Berkeley at University Avenue, when the driver of a Honda, allegedly driving in an emergency lane, was forced to quickly merge behind Shavers when the lane abruptly ended. 

The two cars continued on the access road, when the driver pulled around Shavers’ vehicle and passed him at an intersection. The driver then pulled to the side of the road and stopped near Eastshore Highway and Hearst Avenue. 

Dressed in street clothes, Shavers pulled up alongside the stopped car, and allegedly said, “What’s up, man?” or “Dude, what’s going on?” 

The commission determined that Shavers did not identify himself as an officer or ask whether the driver was in distress, and did not believe that Shavers was actually checking on the man’s welfare.

“Officer Shavers’ conduct, as he described it himself, sounds more like a challenge to the other driver,” according to the Police Commission’s resolution that was adopted unanimously last week by present commissioners Debra Walker, James Byrne, Jesus Yáñez, Larry Yee, and Kevin Benedicto. 

Shavers alleged that when he approached the man’s car, the man became verbally aggressive, and began rummaging around in his car. Shavers told investigators that he believed the man was reaching for a weapon, so he armed himself with his department-issued firearm and waited, while blocking traffic. 

An Escalade and a Honda next to each other in a roadway
Surveillance camera footage shows Michael Shavers’ Escalade adjacent to an unknown man’s Honda in 2019.

“We are not on a Western movie set; this is extremely bad judgment,” added Pantaleo, who represents SFPD, in her closing remarks at Shavers’ hearing in June. “It’s very difficult to say you acted in self-defense when you helped create the entire situation.” 

Shavers then alleged that he saw something shiny or metallic as the man reached his arm out the window. He told investigators that he thought he would be shot at, and responded by shooting one round at the man. 

After the shooting, the man “appeared to be in shock” and quickly drove away, Shavers testified. 

The man was never located by police, and it is unclear whether he was shot. Shavers said that he had attempted to chase down the Honda driver, but could not locate the car, then began making calls to report the incident. 

Commissioners, department agree on numerous faults

But neither the commissioners nor the police department were convinced that his reporting of the incident was up to par, and all five commissioners present at his June hearing found Shavers guilty of three findings: Failure to report the shooting to the local police in Berkeley, failure to report the shooting to his supervising officer and failure to remain at the scene after the shooting. 

Various officers’ testimony, surveillance footage, and phone records show that the shooting occurred at 3:42 p.m., and that Shavers went to his child’s school, made several calls to his union representative, his wife, and his attorney before finally reporting the incident to Berkeley police and his captain around 5 p.m. 

Shavers’ “wealth of experience, training, knowledge of the area and circumstances should have dictated a totally different approach,” SFPD attorney Pantaleo wrote in a filing from January. “It defies common sense that he waited an hour to report this shooting given his statements that he was afraid of the driver, believed him to be possibly armed, and was too afraid to return to the scene immediately.”

Pantaleo called Shavers’ actions after the shooting “100 percent avoidable.” She noted that Shavers could have called 911 to report seeing a possibly armed driver, one who he had fired at in self-defense. He also, she said, failed to preserve the crime scene by waiting so long to return there. 

After the shooting, Scott sent Shavers to desk duty and did not return him to his patrol assignment; the department confirmed that he had been on desk duty since September 2019. Shavers had previously worked at Mission Station, in the Narcotics Division, on the Violence Reduction Team, and served as a field training officer at Southern Station. 

The Police Commission also found Shavers to be in violation of the department’s use-of-force policy. Commissioners agreed that Shavers may have believed he was in “immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury” — which would be required to fire a weapon — but concluded in a 4-1 vote that his actions leading up to the encounter were unreasonable. Byrne was the lone “no” vote against Commissioners Cindy Elias, Max Carter-Oberstone, Yáñez and Walker. 

The commission found that Shavers, who had two past written reprimands within seven years of the incident, had committed willful, deliberate, and premeditated misconduct. 

Shavers received a written reprimand for failing to write a police report in 2019, and for failing to appear in traffic court in 2017. He had also been involved in a previous shooting when he worked at Bayview Station in 2007. That shooting was found to be in policy. 

Shavers had also previously received multiple captain’s commendations and an award from the Board of Supervisors. 

Shavers could not be reached for comment. During his disciplinary proceedings, he denied any wrongdoing.

Shavers’ Linkedin page shows that he may be leaving policing. “I am ready to immerse myself in the dynamic and fast-paced world of civilian life,” his profile reads. 

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REPORTER. Eleni reports on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim more than 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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1 Comment

  1. Shavers was a black cop who tried living in a white mans world. The SF City government didn’t give this man a chance. Back to the streets with nothing but lint in his pockets. Keeping us down!

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