San Francisco

Protesters Gather at San Francisco City Hall as Commissioners Mull Arming Police With Tasers

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.

The rally was timed to take place prior to a Police Commission meeting, where commissioners were expected to take up the idea of arming police officers in the city with Tasers.

The fatal shooting of Mario Woods has revived a choice rejected twice before by commissioners: whether San Francisco police should carry Tasers.

Jeff Stewart, a cousin of Woods, at Wednesday's meeting said Woods' family wants the officers who fired their guns to be charged in the case and San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to resign.

Stewart also said Woods' family is asking the police department to pay for Woods' funeral and that federal authoritiest investigate the case. Stewart said his cousin "deserves to be breathing."

Activists who stormed the meeting and spoke during public comment also called for Suhr to step down. But others are asking the police chief to do more to reach out to the community.

Dr. Amos Brown, head of the NAACP’s San Francisco chapter, supports the use of police Tasers but only if officers also walk the beats and learn the community.

"You have to have appropriate weapons to deal with human situations," Brown said.

Woods, a 26-year-old San Francisco man, was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife when five San Francisco police officers opened fire on him on Dec. 2.

"If our officers had Tasers, it may have changed the course of this incident," San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran said.

Vigils and protests following Woods' death have emphasized the public's desire for police officers to de-escalate violent situations rather than using lethal force. The shooting also led San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to call for police to use what he called "minimal force."

But the police union president took exception to the mayor’s comments.

"Law enforcement does not go to a knife fight with a knife," Martin Halloran said. "We go in with what it takes. Don’t forget, this person stabbed someone 15 minutes before."

Police said Woods was a suspect in a stabbing of a victim who arrived at San Francisco General Hospital at about 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 2 and said he had been stabbed near the corner of Third Street and Le Conte Avenue. An officer spotted Woods in the area about 40 minutes later, prompting the deadly confrontation.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association union issued a statement Tuesday defending the five unnamed officers who opened fire on Woods. Halloran said citizens and "organizations hostile to the police" are jumping to conclusions based on short videos posted online showing the fatal shooting of Woods.

Halloran, Lee and Suhr have all called for officers to be equipped with Taser stun guns, but the idea has failed several times amid public controversy over the safety of the devices.

Meanwhile, following calls from the community to de-escalate police confrontations, Suhr said he is equipping police officers with 60 protective shields -- 10 for each of the department's six districts -- and is looking toward increasing training for officers in de-escalation tactics, joining the national program Re-Engineering Training on Police Use of Force.

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

Copyright BAYCN - Bay City News
Contact Us