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Alex Nieto civil trial continues as lawyers probe conflicting versions of 2014 killing

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Alejandro Nieto was shot and killed by San Francisco police at Bernal Heights Park on March 21, 2014. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Four San Francisco police officers who fired the 48 rounds that killed Alex Nieto spent much of last week testifying they observed the victim pull out a weapon on that fateful day in March 2014 and feared for their lives.

An additional witness, however, has contradicted the police version of the incident.

The first week of a federal civil trial, filed by Nieto’s family against the four involved officers, featured conflicting versions of the fatal shooting. The officers — Jason Sawyer, Roger Morse, Richard Schiff and Nathan Chew — were responding to a report of a man with a pistol on Bernal Hill in Bernal Heights Park on March 21, 2014. The weapon turned out to be a stun gun.

But a witness to the shooting, Antonio Theodore, testified the officers did not warn Nieto before opening fire, contrary to prior police testimony.

On Friday, in Judge Nathanael Cousins’ federal courtroom, a muddle of evidence was presented that supported both versions of the shooting.

Theodore’s testimony under cross examination revealed he has a shaky memory in general and has been drinking alcohol regularly since the shooting. He also said he believed one of the male officers at the scene was a woman.

Theodore’s previous testimony, in which he claimed Nieto had his hands in his pockets at the time of the shooting, was revisited on Friday.

Amy Hart, The City’s former chief medical examiner who performed Nieto’s autopsy, displayed images of the victim’s bullet-ridden body. She described to jurors the path of each bullet, as well as a the number of bullets — 15 — she believed struck Nieto.

But Hart’s testimony also addressed the angle of the bullet wounds, which may indicate how he was positioned at the time of his death.

A bullet reportedly struck the side of Nieto’s leg, according to Hart, yet officers testified Nieto was facing them during the shooting. Additionally, some of the entrance wounds to Nieto’s hands indicate Nieto may not have been pointing the stun gun at the officers, Hart said.

In response, the city attorneys representing the four officers asked why there was no sign of bullets entering his jacket.

Hart said she did not take photos of Nieto’s clothes after they were removed and did not recall holes in the pocket areas, which would been consistent with the victim having his hands in his pockets when he was shot.

Still, Adante Pointer, who represents the Nieto family, pointed out that Hart’s report mentioned a bone was found in the victim’s jacket pocket, possibly indicating Nieto’s hands were in his pockets when he was shot.

The trial is set to continue this morning at 9 a.m.

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