An estimated 200 to 300 protesters gathered on Thursday evening at the spot on Third Street in the Bayview where, a day before, San Francisco police officers killed 26-year-old Mario Woods in a hail of bullets.
The protesters then marched south to a community meeting at St. Paul of the Shipwreck, chanting, “Tell the truth and stop the lies, Mario Woods didn’t have to die.”
At one point, demonstrators silently encircled the dead man’s mother, Gwendolyn Woods, as his cousin Jeff Stewart embraced her.
“He wasn’t a monster,” Gwendolyn Woods told the San Francisco Examiner. “He was not a monster. He would give you the shirt off his back.”
Mario Woods was recently released after being incarcerated for seven years when police shot and killed him late Wednesday afternoon. Chief Greg Suhr said he matched the description of the suspect in a nearby stabbing.
Gwendolyn Woods said her son earned his GED in prison, got his driver’s license when he was released and had just received his uniform the day before he was killed for a new job at the United Parcel Service. He was turning his life around, but came out of prison with a lot of issues, she said.
Though she said the killing of her son was an “execution,” Gwendolyn Woods called for peaceful protests and for young people to work within the system to change laws by earning law degrees.
Officials were also reportedly not forthcoming about Mario Woods’ death, as his mother spent Wednesday night searching for her son. Gwendolyn Woods found little help at Bayview Police Station, San Francisco General Hospital or at the Hall of Justice, according to Shawn Richard of Brothers Against Guns.
It was only through Facebook that she found out her son was dead.
Adante Pointer and DeWitt Lacy, lawyers in the offices of noted civil rights attorney John Burris, told the crowded meeting room Thursday they will work with the mother and two brothers of Woods, whose death was caught on video, to guide the family in its quest for justice.
The video footage of Woods’ death garnered a level of attention unmatched in other recent police killings in San Francisco, as the recording of the incident spread across social media in the hours following the shooting, raising questions about the use of excessive force.
Woods was the sixth person shot and killed by police in The City this year.
“When I saw this video, I had to look away because what I saw was a recurring nightmare, a nightmare that is recurring in our communities,” Pointer said, comparing the case to the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant — which was also captured on video. “We intend to make sure that this family gets justice.”
Pointer said that the mother and two brothers of the deceased would need the support of the Bayview-Hunters Point community to make that justice a reality.
Rheema Calloway, an organizer with Bay Area Black Lives Matter, told demonstrators that The City has lost all but some 3 percent of its black residents.
“This should not be the only time that we are gathering with each other,” she said. “City Hall don’t care, they don’t give a shit about black San Francisco.”
A group of police officers fatally shot a knife-carrying Woods near Third Street and Gilman Avenue around 4:35 p.m., according to Suhr, who said the officers “feared for their lives.” Videos of the shooting posted on social media show Woods surrounded by more than half a dozen officers before a barrage of gunfire is released.
Police are expected to offer more details on the fatal shooting at a 6 p.m. town hall meeting today at the San Francisco Community College Southeast Campus on 1800 Oakdale Ave.
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