At a rally on Thursday, Jan. 5, calling for charges to be filed against two police officers in the March 2015 shooting of Guatemalan immigrant Amilcar Perez Lopez, speakers repeatedly cited the names Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, and Luis Gongora. These people have more in common than the fact that they were shot and killed by San Francisco police officers. What they also have in common is the officers who shot them have never been charged.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi spoke to SF Weekly just after the rally, wearing a “Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez” T-shirt over his suit and tie.
“There has never, to my knowledge, ever been a case where a San Francisco police officer has been charged with a crime for shooting an unarmed civilian,” Adachi tells SF Weekly. “The inherent injustice that comes with not prosecuting officers who are committing crimes flies in the face of our system.”
Perez Lopez was technically armed, in that he was carrying a knife at the time of the shooting. Police officers have said Perez Lopez was charging at them with the knife, though that claim is undermined by autopsy results showing he was shot in the back. District Attorney George Gascon’s office says they’re completing an investigation into the shooting.
“Gascon, in the six years you have been DA you have not charged one police officer,” Justice for Mario Woods Coalition organizer Phelicia Jones said at the rally. “You still have 18 open cases dating back to 2013.”
Perez Lopez’s case is unique in the amount of time that has passed with no decision on whether to prosecute. “It has been two years — 23 months, 679 days — since the District Attorney has not been able to reach a decision,” Perez Lopez family attorney Denise Gasteulun said at the demonstration. “Nothing has changed.”
The Public Defender’s office is not able to bring criminal charges, though Adachi insists he’ll continue to advocate for charges being brought. “If police are not going to be held accountable, what message does that send to the public?” Adachi tells SF Weekly.