Around 4:45pm on Saturday San Francisco police fatally shot a young man who fled after being detained for jumping fare on a light rail vehicle. Initial reports were that police insisted the young man was armed and had opened fire and officers returned fire without being injured. However, police could not find the alleged weapon and people claiming to be witnesses were contradicting their version of events by insisting the man was not armed and had his arms up when he was shot.
I initially added this to the news feed since it did meet our reporting criteria with 3rd party witnesses alleging misconduct and a lack of evidence supporting the police narrative. However, as time went by the story changed and finally came to a point where I felt it was no longer sufficiently credible to keep for our database.
What was the turning point? An alleged bystander’s cell phone video posted to YouTube in the aftermath of the shooting appeared to capture what seems to be a firearm on the ground approximately 6-7 yards away from the victim which, according to the person posting the video, was retrieved by a person in the crowd who later disappeared.
Now, this does not mean that either narrative is correct. After all, it seems strange that the person who took the video doesn’t alert anyone to the alleged gun, that others appear to walk right past it, and at least 5 officers with a line of sight on the alleged weapon do not react to it either. It is also questionable as to how the person who shot the video claims to know who picked up the gun when the video doesn’t pan over to where that alleged incident occurs but does capture someone picking up a cell phone that may have belonged to the victim.
However, it does cast enough questions on the incident to make the police version of events plausible where it wasn’t before. So, in fact, this may well be an incident where private citizens videotaping police may turn in favor of the police, which at least should make officers who want to make recording the police a crime think twice about that stance.
What are your thoughts on the case? Take our poll or let us know in the comment section.
*UPDATE: The SFPD now say they have retrieved a weapon they believe was used by the person they shot during the incident. They claim that a number of videos taken by witnesses led them to the person who is accused of picking up the alleged weapon in the aftermath of the officer-involved shooting incident.
Another update: Police are now saying that the young man had a criminal record in Washington state and was a person of interest in a Seattle WA shooting that injured 4, including a pregnant woman who later died from her injuries.
Review Update: As new footage comes to light a reader comments that a second video does not appear to show the object alleged to be a gun that was shown in the first video we reviewed. I’ve taken a look at the second video, available here (caution, it is very graphic and upsetting), and have highlighted a frame taken at full screen resolution between 1:03 and 1:05 and compared that to a frame from the initial video where the object appears closest to the viewer. Since this site is 3-column you’ll have to click the images to see them full size.
Image of alleged gun from 1st video
Image of unknown object from 2nd video
The grid lines are my best effort at trying to line up reference points between the two videos to determine whether the object that appears in the second video is in the same approximate position as what is alleged to be the gun in the first video and the position does appear to correspond as best as I can tell. Though, due to the poor quality at distance of the second video and because these are grabs from copies of the videos on YouTube instead of the raw video files I cannot determine for certain if they are the same object.
Unfortunately this is the best analysis I can do with the rather limited equipment and resources I have at my disposal. But it does appear as though the second video does not debunk the allegations of a gun appearing in the first video.
Now, again, I feel I have to say that I know being skeptical about this report isn’t going to earn me any friends and would appear to be counter to what some people might think this site is about. But this project must maintain a degree of credibility since we use our data to create statistics about police misconduct so it would be counter to our mission to record an incident in our database when there is evidence that it isn’t a case of misconduct.
Again, that’s not to say that there may or may not be some other component of misconduct involved here, but there just isn’t enough evidence to support that this was a case of non-defensive use of force at this time and there is no other evidence that I’ve been presented with that indicates that it is. Yes, it is difficult and upsetting to watch a young man suffer and die like this. But I cannot let my feelings about that affect how I analyze the evidence I’m shown. If anyone has any other videos or witness claims they feel should be weighed in this case, please do let me know.