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'You Executed Him All Over Again': Family Members Respond to S.F. DA's Decisions in Police Shooting Cases

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Gwendolyn Woods, flanked by members of Luis Góngora's family, responds on May 29 to the San Francisco district ttorney's decision the previous week not to file criminal charges against officers who shot and killed her son, Mario Woods, in late 2015. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

"Don't give my story nonchalantly," Gwendolyn Woods pleaded to a bank of television cameras and reporters Tuesday outside San Francisco's Hall of Justice. For nearly 10 minutes, she spoke about how she has been affected by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón's decision last week to not criminally charge police officers who fatally shot her son.

Gwendolyn Woods doesn't protest weekly, as some people do in the name of Mario Woods. She has given few public statements about how her son's death on Dec. 2, 2015, changed her life, but she did share some of her pain in an in-depth profile published by the California Sunday Magazine last year.

Flanked by her attorney and family members of Luis Góngora -- whose case Gascón also closed last week with no criminal charges -- Gwendolyn Woods started with an attempt to set the record straight.

"I'm not OK with this, Gascón," she said. "You executed him all over again. I’m going to always say this: He was the best of me. People ask. He had empathy, that’s why. If he would have been in that situation, he would have said, 'Let’s try and talk him off a ledge.' No, you guys didn’t. 'Cause you’re so full of hate."

Woods at times paused, tapping her foot and seeming to hold back tears. Her voice rose to a screech of anger.


Listen to the Gwendolyn Woods' statement in full below.

"Why are you policing me in my community and you hate me?" she said. "It’ll never turn out well for me. If you’re that scared of me, don’t police me. Because it’s never going to turn out well."

She said her son had empathy, and he needed empathy from SFPD officers on the day he was shot.

Woods, 26, was under the influence of methamphetamine the day he was shot, according to the medical examiner's report on his death. He was wanted for allegedly stabbing a man in San Francisco's Bayview District near where about a dozen police officers confronted and eventually shot him.

According to the district attorney's report, citing statements from police officers, Woods said to officers that they would have to shoot him. Those statements are disputed by attorneys representing Gwendolyn Woods.

"I heard ‘em say they had to stop people. They had to stop Mario. No they didn’t, because they just went ballistic with the gun when our babies were coming home from school," Gwendolyn Woods said. "They saw him as nothing or nobody, or that nobody loved him. Let me tell you, I loved that kid and he was worth me fighting for. He was the best of me. Something you all can use on this police force, but you can’t because you’re racist and full of hate: empathy. Mario deserved a little empathy."

"I'm so broken," she said repeatedly as she walked away from the microphones. "I'm so broken."

Luis Góngora

Cousins and a brother of Luis Gongóra, who was killed about four months after Mario Woods by two SFPD officers in San Francisco's Mission District, also spoke Tuesday in reaction to the district attorney's decision not to file charges in that case. Gascón announced both decisions simultaneously last week.

José Góngora Pat, Luis Góngora's brother, said in Spanish that his heart is broken.

"My struggle is against the injustice we share," he said. "I promised my mother I would not rest until I found the way to consequences for those police officers. ... I'm up here crying before you. This is how they hurt us."

Listen to statements by family members of Luis Góngora below, including Spanish-to-English translation by advocate Adriana Camarena.

On April 7, 2016, two SFPD officers briskly approached Góngora, who was sitting against a building in the city's Mission District and holding a kitchen knife, after a homeless outreach worker called 911 and reported him waving the knife around and acting erratically.

The shooting raised questions, including from former Police Chief Greg Suhr, about whether the officers adhered to SFPD rules enacted in 2013 that encourage fostering "time and distance" when confronting suspects armed with knives who may be in psychiatric crisis.

The officers moved toward Góngora while shouting commands, and one fired four impact rounds before transitioning to his firearm. The encounter lasted less than 30 seconds.

The district attorney's investigation found that Góngora moved approximately 23 feet toward the officers during the encounter, and that he was holding a knife. Góngora had a high level of methamphetamine in his system, according to the medical examiner's report.

"We will prove that they killed an innocent man, a person who never caused harm," Góngora's widow, Fidelia del Carmen May Can, said in a statement from Yucatan, Mexico, which was read Tuesday.

Both Woods' and Góngora's families have filed federal civil rights lawsuits, and those cases are pending.

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