Mario Woods' Mother Suing San Francisco Amid Calls for Police Chief's Resignation
Gwendolyn Woods addresses reporters at a Dec. 11 press conference announcing a federal civil rights lawsuit over the police shooting of her son, Mario Woods, on Dec. 2. (Alex Emslie/KQED)
Update 5:55 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11:
The San Francisco Police Department has identified five officers involved in the shooting of Mario Woods Dec. 2. Their names are Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips.
All five officers remain on administrative leave, according to SFPD Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
Original Post, Updated 5:40 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11:
Attorneys representing the mother of a 26-year-old Bayview man killed by several San Francisco police officers last week called the shooting of Mario Woods a "public execution" and "shooting gallery" while announcing a federal wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit against the city Friday.
Gwendolyn Woods, Mario Woods' mother, spoke briefly at the press conference where the lawsuit was announced.
"He was the best to me," she said, struggling to speak while crying, "and he redeemed himself. He did, and he was the best to me."
Woods was reportedly shot 21 times by five officers on Dec. 2 in San Francisco's Bayview District. Police say he was a suspect in a stabbing earlier that day and refused to drop a small knife when confronted by a line of officers. Police say officers shot Woods with "less-lethal" beanbag rounds and pepper-sprayed him before he was shot.
At least four bystander videos of the shooting have been posted online. Civil rights attorney John Burris unveiled the fourth Friday after referencing a KQED News analysis of previously known videos that appeared to contradict Police Chief Greg Suhr's statements about the shooting.
Suhr said at a Dec. 4 town hall meeting on the shooting that Woods was holding a knife and raised his arm toward an officer before police opened fire.
"KQED presented a video that’s been displayed, and in that video it’s pretty clear that the shots occurred before he in fact -- Mario -- raised his hand," Burris said, "indicating that the statements given by the police chief were clearly bogus, and were designed clearly to cover for the officers."
Suhr has not responded to multiple KQED inquiries about the apparent contradiction, but Sgt. Michael Andraychak responded Friday evening.
"Chief Suhr has been clear on this point and that in the Department's assessment of the video, when slowed down, it appears that Mr. Woods is extending his right arm as he moves forward and the officer moves backwards," Andraychak wrote in an emailed response. "All evidence including videos, witness statements and items spoken to by Mr. Burris will be followed up on by investigators."
Burris said the chief's credibility has been called into question.
"If you make false statements about an event that you know at the time that you made the statements were false, then of course you should resign," Burris said, echoing a growing call for Suhr to step down. "You can’t trust things that he says and you certainly can entrust the integrity of any investigation that he is engaged in when there’s clear evidence that contradicts what he said."
Suhr said Monday the department will deploy riot shields to officers, which could be used when confronting people carrying edged weapons. He also said firing range protocols have changed to emphasize alternatives to deadly force. The city's Police Commission began the process Wednesday of reviewing the department's use-of-force policies and has promised big changes.
Attorneys also displayed photographs of Woods' body and said he appeared to have been shot at least 20 times.
"That use of force has very real consequences," attorney Adante Pointer said, adding that Woods was "tattooed from his feet to his head with bullets."
Burris said Woods does not appear to have a knife in his hand in any of the videos, and he's still seeking information about an alleged stabbing in which Woods was reportedly a suspect.
The latest sign of community anger over the killing was a demonstration Friday involving hundreds of middle school and high school students who marched on City Hall to demand Chief Suhr's dismissal.
The protest, followed by police officers and school district officials, briefly blocked parts of Mission Street and Market Street.
Marchers chanted, "No justice, no peace! No racist police!" and "Hands up, don't shoot!" as they walked peacefully to Union Square and back up Geary.