District Attorney George Gascón has declined to filed charges against police in two separate, highly-covered, fatal officer-involved shootings — that of Luis Góngora Pat, and Mario Woods.
“I’m extremely, extremely disturbed by the state of the law today, and yet I’m duty-bound to adhere to the rules of the law,”Gascón said. “After very, very very furtive analysis… the conclusion is very very clear. Under the law today no crime was committed in the Mario Woods shooting or the Luis Gongora shooting.
“I think as a society we are failing our most vulnerable communities when it comes to police use of force. we’re failing our police officers too. I don’t believe that we’re doing the right thing for the men and women in uniform either,” he added. “For police officers, I have a personal message… When there is a disconnect between the people that we serve and the men and women in uniform that does not create for a safer environment for police officers and it obviously doesn’t result in a safer environment for our community.”
A video documenting Woods’ death on Dec. 2., 2015 quickly went viral. Woods was shown huddling against a wall while surrounded by Officers Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips. He was hit by 20 bullets after allegedly refusing to surrender a knife.
A post-mortem toxicology showed that Woods had a number of drugs in his system, including methamphetamine, marijuana, and cough medicine, in addition to antidepressants.
Góngora Pat was killed by SFPD on April 7, 2016, near the tent where he lived on 19th and Shotwell streets. Known in the neighborhood for peacefully kicking around a soccer ball, on that day a call was made to authorities alleging that he was wielding a knife. Within 28 seconds of arriving on the scene, Sergeant Nate Seger and Officer Mike Mellone had fired six bullets, killing Góngora Pat while he was on the ground.
The shooting rocked the city and angered anti-police brutality activists, who criticized the police for not taking more time to talk to Góngora Pat, highlighting his limited understanding of English.
“There is plenty of evidence to show that he was holding a knife, and there is plenty of evidence to show that he was moving toward the officers,” Gascón said Thursday, calling such evidence “unequivocal.”
“The conflict that I have is that I don’t think the use of force was necessary,” he added. “My dissatisfaction with the law is a different issue. I’m duty-bound to follow the law. In this country, we do not bring charges against people who do not break the law.”
The two shootings came in the midst of a slew of fatal use-of-force from SFPD, who also killed Alex Nieto on March 21, 2014, and Amilcar Perez Lopez on Feb. 26, 2015. After Jessica Williams was fatally shot by police on May 19, 2016, then-Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned.
Góngora Pat’s family has been seeking justice ever since.
Gascón says that he invited both families to meet with him today, but that neither attended. He said he thought the Woods family was too distraught, and that the Góngora Pat family would only attend if they could bring non-family members, like a representative from the Mexican Consulate, which he declined.
After the announcement, Góngora Pat’s family gathered on the steps outside the Hall of Justice to speak to the press, along with lawyer Adante Pointer from John Burris Law, which represents both families.
“How is it possible that he will not charge the killers of an innocent man, a family man?” asked Góngora Pat’s cousin, Luis Armando Poot Pat. “Let it be known that DA Gascón does not do his job. He doesn’t have the courage to tell things how they are.
“With this decision, Gascón gives officers a green light to kill without consequence,” he added. “Not all cops are bad. But when you don’t make accountable bad police in the police department, you impact all of the community.”
Poot Pat called for Gascón’s resignation, noting that citizens have the power not to choose him in the next District Attorney election, which will take place in November 2019.
Update, 2:45 p.m. Public Defender Jeff Adachi slammed the ruling.
“A hail of bullets is not an appropriate police response to people suffering mental health crises,” he said. “In both the Woods and Gongora killings, officers were not in immediate danger when they fired their weapons. The San Francisco District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute any officer on any charge is mindboggling and fails to hold police to the same laws we, as citizens, are expected to abide. To date, not a single officer in San Francisco has ever been criminally charged as the result of shooting a citizen, yet citizens are charged with crimes every day despite prosecutors being unable to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is clear prosecutors are using a different standard in judging police officers’ conduct. The reforms proposed by the Department of Justice’s review are empty promises without officer accountability.”
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