The San Francisco police officers who shot and killed Alejandro “Alex” Nieto at Bernal Hill Park in March 2014 did not use excessive force, a federal jury ruled Thursday.
Nieto, 28, a city native and a security guard at an area nightclub, was approached by a rookie police officer and his training sergeant responding to a 911 call reporting a man with a gun on March 21, 2014.
After a brief encounter, in which Nieto was told to put up his hands but pulled out a Taser, police opened fire. As many as 50 shots were fired, and Nieto was shot at least 15 times.
The jury reached their verdict in a civil trial following a lawsuit brought by Nieto's family, who argued that his civil rights were violated via the use of unconstitutional excessive force. In federal civil cases, juries' verdicts must be unanimous.
[jump] According to testimony, police were called to Bernal Hill after a dog walker spotted Nieto sitting on a bench about 200 yards away.
When police arrived, witnesses described Nieto sitting on the bench, eating a burrito. Rookie cop Richard Schiff told the court he mistook Nieto's brand-new red 49ers jacket for gang attire. Nieto was told to raise his hands at a distance of over 100 feet, but instead went for his taser, police told the jury.
The lone eyewitness to the shooting, a singer for the local band Afrolicious, testified that Nieto had his hands in his pockets and was on his knees after three shots and on the ground after four. .
Schiff fired 13 times, emptying his gun. He then reloaded and shot 10 more times, according to testimony.
There were bone fragments found in one of the pockets of Nieto's jacket, suggesting he had his hands in his pockets, according to testimony.
Nieto is one of three high-profile police shootings to happen in San Francisco in the past two years. On Dec. 2, 2015, Mario Woods — a black man armed with a knife suspected of an earlier stabbing — was shot and killed in the Bayview (he was hit several times in the back and the back of the head).
The four cops in the case will soon return to patrol.
Earlier last year, 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, was shot and killed by police in the Mission District. According to a private autopsy, he was shot in the back six times.
Supporters of Nieto have called a meeting at 6 p.m. in the Mission District to plot their next steps. Nieto's family was represented by the law offices of civil rights attorney John Burris, who is also representing the family of Woods.
Lawsuits against the city filed by the families of Woods and Perez-Lopez are pending.