César Chávez Elementary School was a sadly fitting space to hold a town hall meeting about a dead young man. As more than 250 Mission District community members entered the school’s gymnasium Monday morning to learn exactly how Jesus Adolfo Delgado Duarte, 19, had been killed, they passed colorful posters drawn by children hanging in the hallways. When the victim’s family and advocates for police reform and transparency spoke to the press, they stood in front of a sign which asked simply “What’s nonfiction?”
Three years and 11 days earlier, an eerily similar scene unfolded at César Chávez, when the San Francisco Police Department called a town hall in response to the fatal shooting of Amilcar Perez Lopez, a 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant. The meetings were painfully identical: Enraged people asked for better translation services, community-based policing, and for cops to slow down before firing their weapons. SFPD was calm and firm, fairly emotionless in its presentation of facts.
Each meeting took hours — Duarte’s lasted more than four — as dozens of people took the mic, pleading for police to do better. It’s been three years, and it seems as though nothing had changed.
The story SFPD presented on Monday evening told the tale of Duarte’s last moments. Two individuals, claiming they’d been victims of an armed robbery, flagged down police officers shortly after 10:30 p.m. on March 6. Duarte was spotted sprinting toward a black Honda Civic parked halfway down Capp Street between 21st and 22nd streets. He hopped in the trunk, allegedly telling his friends that he didn’t want to get caught and be deported.
Cops surrounded the car and arrested the driver, Victor Navarro-Flores, but they failed to take 17-year-old Cristina Juarez out of the back seat. Body-worn cameras reveal a standoff that lasted several minutes, while police tried to convince Duarte to exit the vehicle.
When the crowd assembled at the town hall saw five clips, which captured the incident from several angles, obvious problems with SFPD’s reaction unfolded. It took three minutes for a cop to ask if anyone spoke Spanish, and another 30 seconds for a translator to start talking to Duarte. Police on the scene kept telling him they were going to shoot him, with one officer even prompting the interpreter to tell him that “he will get shot if he doesn’t show his hands.”
Duarte fired one shot out of the trunk, which apparently hit the asphalt. Police then opened fire, sending 99 bullets toward the vehicle. Twenty-five hit Duarte. Countless others entered vehicles parked nearby, people’s homes, and even one man’s sofa. Despite being inches from the trunk of the car, Juarez miraculously survived. Duarte did not.
After the rain of bullets ended, the Spanish-speaking translator can be heard pleading for police to stop firing their guns.
It took less than 30 minutes for SFPD to take a huge step backward in repairing its damaged relationship with the Mission District, which has seen numerous incidents of police violence over the past few years — including the fatal SFPD shootings of Alex Nieto, Perez Lopez, and Luis Gongora Pat. So prevalent is this type of police violence in the neighborhood that in reporting on Duarte’s death, Mission Local noted that he “became this year’s first Mission District victim of an officer-involved shooting,” implying that more were on their way.
But the neighborhood has become powerfully well-versed in the routines of officer-involved shootings. Standing next to Duarte’s father, sister, and brother, neighborhood activists called passionately for reform, highlighting over and over that the final five minutes of his life were not all he was.
Ivan Coronado worked closely with Duarte during the reopening of the Boys and Girls Club at Mission and 21st streets.
“He was one of the first kids in that door every morning, and one of the last kids to go home,” Coronado said. “Some of the first field trips we took were for him to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. To ride a bike for the first time. To go on his first college tour. He believed in the program so much that he convinced his parents he wanted to spend more time there.”
Roots in the neighborhood ran deep for the young man, who grew up there, attended John O’Connell High School, and worked at a Metro PCS on Mission Street. The trauma of loss in this story extends beyond just his immediate family to other youth in the Mission, who’ve lost a friend.
Tracy Brown Gallardo has a daughter who attended school with Duarte, and was in the same social circle.
“My kid is personally shattered over what has happened,” she said. “The kids in my community, they don’t have a voice right now because they’re so in shock. I speak for them now, but beware, because their voice has awoken. They will be speaking, and they will be at the next rally.
“This is not okay that one of our kid’s last words was that he was scared of being deported,” Gallardo added. “We are the Mission. We are Adolfo. We are all one community, we are all one Mission. This is our kid, we claim him and everything about him.”
Juarez’s mother was justifiably furious that SFPD didn’t do more to make sure her daughter was safe before sending nearly 100 bullets in her direction.
“They knew that my daughter was in there with them,” she told police. “They knew because they asked her to put her hands up. They asked her to get out but the car was a two-door car, she had no chance. If she put one of her hands down to open the door, you know you guys would have killed her.”
In the wake of the town hall, the criminal justice system will march forward. Victor Navarro-Flores, 19, will appear in court on Friday, represented by Chesa Boudin of the Public Defender’s office. He’s been charged with second-degree robbery, and is out of jail with an ankle bracelet monitoring his movements.
SFPD will release the names of the 10 officers who fired their weapons by the end of this week.
District Attorney George Gascón will determine if charges will be brought against them — though it’s unlikely. Gascón has yet to bring charges against any officer involved in a fatal shooting during the past seven years. And as Duarte fired his gun first, the loose defense that they all feared for their lives will most likely be used to free them from any appearance of guilt. More than likely, all 10 will be back on the streets in the coming weeks.
For Frank Lara, a teacher at César Chávez Elementary, that fact alone is shocking.
“I myself am a teacher here,” he said. “Whenever some situation affects the safety of our kids, you get fired, and rightly so because you should not endanger our children. But when you have a police officer who continually kills, gets moved to another department, their profile gets hidden from the community, they get put on a desk job with a sweet two-week vacation, what message are you sending to your own department? That you can kill Black and brown boys and get away with it.”