San Francisco reported an officer-involved shooting Friday morning in the Oceanview neighborhood, where a suspect was described as going "beserk," in a now-political event where the union is calling —again —for Tasers.
San Francisco is one of only two large U.S. cities that do not equip officers with stun guns. Critics of the Tasers, who include Public Defender Jeff Adachi, say police need better training in crisis intervention techniques and don't need yet another weapon at their disposal. San Francisco police have tried many times to win police commission authorization for stun guns to no avail. The most recent police commission order on Dec. 21 lists what force options San Francisco police officers have at their disposal. Those include: verbal commands, takedown, impact weapons, pepper spray, dog bites, firearms and personal weapons, bean bag guns and vehicle interventions. Tasers are not on the list.
In Friday's non-fatal shooting, police said two officers responded to a disturbance between two neighbors on the 500 block of Capitol Avenue near Montana Street about 5 a.m. One neighbor was banging on the wall, police said, which is when pepper spray was deployed.
That's when police shot the suspect, who then barricaded himself inside his home and called 911 to say he was shot, police said. The police union also said the man had a restraining order against him, but did not indicate for what.
Later in the morning, Police Officer Association President Martin Halloran sent out a statement saying that his two officers went to "great lengths to calm and subdue the angry, violent suspect, using ‘time and distance’ techniques." He said they tried to negotiate with him and tried to ‘talk him down,’ for 15 minutes using crisis intervention training.
"But then the suspect went berserk and physically attacked the officers," Halloran said. "The suspect, who is much larger than the officers, exhibited behavior that would suggest that he was under the influence of controlled substances. Eventually the officers deployed pepper spray but it was ineffective. During the confrontation the suspect forcibly disarmed one of the officers of his baton."
At some point, police were able to arrest the man and get him medical help. One officer suffered a head injury, police said, but is expected to live.
After he described what his officers went through, Halloran took the time to argue again for Tasers, something the department has been denied many times.
“At this point the officers were left with no other ‘less than lethal’ options," Halloran's statement read in part. "Suzy Loftus and the Police Commission have repeatedly denied officers the ability to use Tasers, even though every other major city allows officers this less-than-lethal option. Loftus and the Police Commission have just recently taken away police officers’ ability to use the carotid restraint, which would have been very useful in this situation, where a large suspect was attacking smaller officers."
Loftus sent out her own statement saying it was "far too early to make conclusions about what happened." She added that the Police Commission is committed to "ensure that the men and women who protect our city have the training and the tools needed to preserve the safety and sanctity of life for all involved."
But in Halloran's mind, those tools would include Tasers and the carotid restraint. His statement ended like this:
“So, after trying to ‘talk down’ the suspect for 15 minutes, and facing an angry, crazed suspect, now armed with an officer’s baton – and after having most ‘less than lethal’ options taken away by Loftus and the commission – one of the officers was forced to stop the dangerous suspect by discharging his firearm.
“The suspect is still alive, but he never would have been shot at all if the officers had ‘less than lethal’ options such as Tasers and the carotid restraint available to them. Loftus and the commission have taken away these options from officers, and today, they must share responsibility for this suspect who has serious injuries.”