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Jury rules SF officers who killed Alex Nieto did not use excessive force

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Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner speaks to the media outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, March 10, 2016. A jury ruled four San Francisco police officers did not use excessive force in the fatal shooting of Alex Nieto. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Four San Francisco police officers who shot and killed a 28-year-old man in Bernal Heights Park two years ago did not use excessive force, a federal jury has ruled.

The verdict was delivered early Thursday afternoon in federal court, less than a day after closing arguments concluded in the wrongful death suit filed by the family of Alex Nieto against the officers and San Francisco.

Nieto was fatally shot March 21, 2014, after Nieto was told by the officers to put his hands up and he pulled a stun gun the officers mistook for a gun. Police opened fire with more than 50 rounds because they believed their lives were in danger, the jury ruled.

Oscar Salinas, a friend of Nieto, said getting to tell his late friend’s story in court was a victory in itself. Now, he said, it’s up to the public to decide on whether it was right or not.

“SFPD can shoot 59 bullets and get away with it,” said Salinas, one of many angry Nieto supporters outside the courthouse Thursday.

Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner, representing the four officers, said her clients are relieved and that it has been hard for them to sit in the courtroom and have their decision-making questioned. She also said the most valuable piece of evidence was the Taser clock, which proved he pulled the weapon’s trigger when confronted by police.

“[The Taser clock] proves absolutely that Nieto pulled that trigger while he was right in front of those police officers,” Baumgartner said outside the courthouse.

Over the course of the trial, the eight-person jury in Judge Nathanael Cousins’ courtroom heard from the four officers who fired their guns, civilian witnesses to the shooting and a handful of experts — medical, ballistic and tactical — whose opinions and rulings were shaped and molded by each side in the case.

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