San Francisco

San Francisco Students Protest, Block Traffic as Family Files Lawsuit in SFPD Shooting Death of Mario Woods

San Francisco high school students walked out of class on Friday and marched to City Hall, then Union Square in protest of the shooting.

San Francisco students walked out of class and took to the streets to protest police brutality on the same day the family of the man slain by police last week filed a lawsuit against the city.

Civil rights attorney John Burris is filing a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 26-year-old San Francisco resident Mario Woods, who was killed last week when five San Francisco police officers responding to a reported stabbing opened fire.

Burris and the Woods family held a press conference Friday during which they alleged that officers inappropriately started shooting and needlessly gunned Woods down during a confrontation in the city's Bayview neighborhood.

Gwen Woods, the mother of Mario Woods, sat sobbing with family members and friends as Burris and his colleagues presented the graphic videos along with new photos of Woods' body taken post-mortem.

As the press conference began, students from high schools across the city walked out of class and headed to City Hall in protest of the Bayview shooting. Handbills were distributed calling for students from Lincoln, Mission, Balboa, Galileo and other San Francisco schools to dress in all black. Among the walk-out organizers demands: Front-facing cameras and sensitivity training for officers.

From City Hall, the protesters headed toward San Francisco's City Hall, where at one point the crowd blocked the intersection of Powell and Geary streets.

Image of the handbill that was distributed encouraging San Francisco high school students to walk out of class, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court seeks unspecified damages.

Late Friday afternoon, the San Francisco Police Department released the names of the five officers involved in the Woods shooting: Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas andScott Phillips. The officers are on administrative leave while the case is being investigated, standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting case.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has said it appears Woods raised his hand with the knife before officers fired. Burris presented footage with enhanced audio at Friday's press conference that he said made it clear Woods didn't raise his hand until after the sound of gunfire is heard.

"If you look at the videotape and see it closely, you will see that whatever was happening he did not raise his hands in any kind of threatening manner before a barrage of shots were reached against him," Burris said.

Burris said that because the evidence contradicts what Suhr said, his credibility is being called into question and that the community deserves better. "You should resign," Burris said in a comment directed at Suhr on Friday.

Burris's office has previously called the Dec. 2, 2015, shooting of Woods an "unnecessary and tragic death at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department." He said it is similar to the recent police shooting deaths of Laquan MacDonald and Ron Johnson in Chicago, who were both shot in the back while moving away from police.

Police have said Woods was armed with a kitchen knife at the time of the shooting and is suspected of stabbing a person earlier that day.

Burris maintains that officers shot Mario Woods about 20 times as he was trying to walk away. He said the videos show that Woods did not threaten the police before he was gunned down.

Suhr has defended the use of force, saying the video shows Woods raising the hand holding the knife toward officers.

The Woods family lawsuit builds on unrest already festering in the Bayview community: More than 100 people showed up for four hours at Wednesday’s police commission meeting, some saying SFPD should adopt use of stun guns, others demanding that Suhr step down. The chief has shown no signs of doing that and is emphasizing de-escalation tactics.

The NAACP is demanding changes in the San Francisco Police Department after last week’s shooting in the Bayview District. Jean Elle reports.

David Lloyd told NBC Bay Area he’s lived in the Bayview for 35 years and wants more than the changes the chief says he’s working on.

“I personally don’t think that’s enough. I think there should be a federal investigation into the practices of heavy tactics of the police department because they’re overbearing toward this community, period,” Lloyd said. “I don’t think it’s right, personally, these guys are highly intelligent and they have other tools other than instant death.”

Police have not yet released information on how many rounds were fired at Woods and the San Francisco medical examiner's office has not released how many bullets struck Woods.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and members of the community have called on the police department to alter their use of force policies to ensure that officers de-escalate conflicts.

"Mario was used as target practice by reckless and malicious San Francisco police officers," Burris said in a statement released Thursday, adding, "the killing is an outrage and an affront to the African American community."

Protesters gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday to demand justice for a man fatally shot by police last week in the city’s Bayview District. Chuck Coppola reports.

Burris said he has had an independent video and audio expert enhance the cellphone video footage of the shooting, which has been shared widely on social media.

San Francisco police said the five officers who discharged their firearms are on administrative leave. Those officers' names will be released within 10 days of the fatal shooting.

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Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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