Activists and family members of a homeless Mexican man killed by police in 2016 in San Francisco’s Mission District began holding a 24-hour vigil Wednesday evening outside of the Hall of Justice to demand that charges be filed against the involved officers.
The family of Luis Gongora Pat has been rallying outside of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. on a daily basis for two weeks, to demand that District Attorney George Gascon file murder charges against the two officers who fatally shot Gongora Pat on April 7, 2016, near 19th and Shotwell streets.
During a Feb. 28 meeting between Gascon and Gongora Pat’s family, Gascon told the family he would make a decision in six to eight weeks, with today being the deadline. Coincidently, today is Gongora Pat’s birthday. He would be 38.
“We are very upset because a murder has been committed. And George Gascon has all the evidence, all the witnesses, at his finger tips and he won’t bring charges against the officers,” Gongora Pat’s cousin, Luis Poot Pat, said.
“He lacks courage and he’s become an accomplice… by protecting the killer officers, the same officers who killed my cousin,” Poot Pat said. “Gascon said he would give us a decision and he still hasn’t.”
The family said Gascon hasn’t reached out to them since the initial Feb. 28 meeting.
Earlier this month, Gascon denied setting a deadline for making a decision on whether charges would be filed against the officers, saying, “I won’t compromise the integrity of an investigation because of a deadline.”
“In this case, concerning the death of Luis Gongora Pat, Gascon is unwilling to even give his family an opportunity at justice… When we know in this community people are tried for a whole lot less,” said attorney Adante Pointer, who is representing the family in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.
“Not only will he not prosecute, with the excuse that it’s a hard case, but right up the street here, somehow the U.S. Attorney has found it in
his skill to prosecute the very police officers that Gascon gives a pass on,” Pointer said, referring to the civil suit.
The civil suit, however, won’t be heard in federal court until May 2, 2019, Pointer said.
“It’s not about it being too difficult or too hard, it’s about you not having the courage and the willpower to do it. So if you don’t have the heart, you shouldn’t be in this position,” Pointer said.
Gongora Pat was an indigenous Mayan man who had emigrated from the Mexican state of Yucatan more than a decade ago and spoke little English or Spanish. After working for sometime as a dishwasher, he had become homeless and was living at an encampment near where he was killed.
According to police, homeless outreach workers initially called police on April 7, 2016 after allegedly seeing Gongora Pat swinging a large kitchen knife. The officers allegedly found him seated on a sidewalk with the knife in his hand.
After ordering him in both English and Spanish to put the knife down, they fired beanbag rounds at him, but police said he then stood up and ran at the officers with the knife in his hand. Sgt. Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone both shot him and Gongora Pat later died at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, police said.
The entire encounter lasted around 30 seconds.
The civil suit filed by the family contends that Gongora Pat never got up and the officers shot him while he was still seated on the sidewalk, never giving him a chance to comply.
In addition to justice for Gongora Pat’s death, the family is also honoring the 24 people who have been killed by San Francisco police without
charges being filed against the officers since 2011, when Gascon first took office. Each hour of the vigil is meant to represent each person killed at the hands of police.
The family of Jesus Adolfo Delgado-Duarte, a 19-year-old killed by police in March in the Mission District, also attended the vigil, in addition to Mesha Irizarry, the mother of Idriss Stelley, 23, killed by San Francisco police on June 13, 2001.
The vigil is set to culminate Thursday at 6 p.m.
-Daniel Montes, Bay City News