A crime scene investigator who inspected Shotwell Street following a police shootout in 2022 testified today in the ongoing trial of Jose Corvera, who is accused of firing an imitation pistol at police and triggering a lengthy gunfight. San Francisco Police Officer Edward Gamble said today that some 30 bullet holes were discovered near the area where Corvera hid from police — and, allegedly, shot at them.
In contrast, just three casings from Corvera’s blanks-firing imitation weapon were discovered on the scene, according to Gamble, who took the stand today on day two of Corvera’s trial. One of those shots was fired as Corvera surrendered the weapon, according to witnesses.
Corvera, who was stopped and subsequently pursued by police as he biked on the sidewalk in the Mission District on Aug. 6, 2022, ended up embroiled in a nearly hour-long standoff and shootout with officers on Shotwell Street between 17th and 18th streets. He faces charges of resisting arrest, threatening police, and exhibiting an imitation firearm during the incident. His trial commenced on Monday.
Corvera’s public defender is arguing that the officers stopped her client without reason and that Corvera, who speaks no English, became confused and ran. It was then that he hid behind a car and pulled out what officers later discovered was an imitation weapon that was presumed to be the genuine article at the time.
In court on Tuesday, Gamble testified that 18 bullet casings were found on the street after Corvera was arrested following the standoff. Three of those, Gamble said, were blank casings from Corvera’s imitation gun. Corvera is believed to have deliberately shot his imitation firearm only twice, once at the very start of the confrontation, and another time during the extended standoff. When he ultimately surrendered the weapon, it can be heard on officers’ body-worn camera footage firing a final time.
But Gamble discovered that the car Corvera hid behind, and the residential building behind him, were riddled with additional bullet holes, purportedly from police officers’ guns.
Gamble testified that he found at least nine bullet holes and three smashed glass panes on the red Toyota that Corvera used to shield himself during the standoff.
On the two-unit building nearby, Gamble discovered more: Bullet holes were found in a couch, the walls of a living room and bedroom, and through a water pipe. One bullet was found within a stack of clothing in a girl’s bedroom. Through an act of providence, nobody was injured during the nearly hour of shooting.
Gamble confirmed the discovery of at least 20 bullet holes in the residential building behind where Corvera was crouching, through questioning from Public Defender Kathleen Natividad.
Corvera’s imitation weapon was also shown in court on Tuesday afternoon. Gamble noted that its orange tip, which would signify that the gun was not real, had been concealed with black coloring.
In Corvera’s gun’s chamber and magazine, four additional unfired blank cartridges remained.
Ultimately, Corvera did not shoot those cartridges; he surrendered the firearm and tossed it out toward police officers. It is at this point that the gun appears to have fired inadvertently.
After the trial wrapped for the day, in the hallway Natividad raised questions, as she did on Monday, about the initial police stop of Corvera that led into the standoff and shootout.
Officer Cain Schrachta was just a few weeks into the job, being trained by Officer Michael Rotschi, when the pair came upon Corvera pedaling a rentable city bicycle and rolling his own bicycle alongside. On the first day at trial, Schrachta said he and Rotschi intended to cite Corvera for riding on the sidewalk.
Natividad told Mission Local it was likely “shocking to the jurors” to discover the police department’s procedures during and after the incident.
“When [Rotschi] got pulled off of the scene by the sergeant, the sergeant immediately told him to turn off his body-worn camera,” Natividad said of the moments after Rotschi and Schrachta each fired their guns once. This meant that Rotschi’s statement of the incident, just after it happened, was never recorded.
What’s more, Natividad said that the reason for officers trying to stop Corvera was never clear. Although police have since said they believed Corvera had stolen a bicycle, she said, there is no record of Rotschi informing Schrachta, his trainee, of this.
“If that’s really how the SFPD trains their police officers, they should really take a look at that,” Natividad said.
In the aftermath of the police shooting, the SFPD pointed to a crime bulletin regarding a bike theft as the reason officers had pursued Corvera in the first place. But the crime bulletin they referred to was of a red bicycle stolen from Twin Peaks, far from the Mission District.
And the red bicycle that Corvera was rolling was his, Natividad said.
Prosecutor Robert Perkins declined to comment on the day’s proceedings. Perkins is expected to present two additional witnesses tomorrow, before the defense presents its case.