A violent tussle between two men inside a Subway restaurant on Market Street lasted for nearly two minutes as bystanders tried to break the pair apart. When the fight finally neared its end, the bloodied face of 26-year-old Nicholas Flusche appeared as he came from behind the counter and grabbed the man he had allegedly beaten and stabbed.
Moments later, Flusche fell to the floor after he’d been struck by one shot from a police officer’s pistol.
The video of the killing at the corner of Market and Mason streets just after 11 a.m. on May 3 was shown to the public by police exactly one week later on Wednesday morning as part of a meeting held a block from the incident. The four videos released Wednesday include two taken from officers’ body cameras.
Chief William Scott — along with Tenderloin Station Capt. Teresa Ewins, Supervisor Jane Kim and Cmdr. Greg McEachern — spoke about the incident before and after the videos were shown to several dozen people. The chief characterized the “town hall” meeting, the first in Scott’s time as chief, as an example of his commitment to transparency.
“We just want to report the facts, not a narrative, not spin,” he told reporters. “I’m not saying anybody previous to me did that, but we were very clear on our objective today. Let’s get the facts out as what happened today with no commentary [or] judgment or anything like that.”
Along with a brief statement about the state of the investigation and the facts of the case, the department also released the name of the officer who fired his weapon and confirmed that officer also shot another suspect in January, the only other police shooting instance for the department this year.
WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE.
In the Subway incident, Officer Kenneth Cha fired one shot to the lower right back of Flusche, Scott said. Flusche was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Jan. 6, Cha shot a mentally ill man in the Oceanview neighborhood after a scuffle on the man’s porch. That shooting was also caught on Cha’s body camera. The man who was shot, Sean Moore, had until recently faced charges of assaulting an officer, but his case was dropped Wednesday.
Police on Wednesday also displayed a photo of the knife used to attack the Subway employee, who was hospitalized with stab wounds.
“The preliminary evidence in this case indicates that one officer fired one shot,” said McEachern. “The preliminary evidence from the Medical Examiner’s Office indicates that Nicholas Flusche was struck one time in his lower right back.”
Police did not give a motive for the attack nor did they speak about the department’s de-escalation policies.
The chief also expressed condolences for the Flusche family in Texas.
Flusche had come into the Subway and ordered a sandwich but didn’t appear to have enough money to pay, McEachern said.
Several minutes later, in footage from Subway’s surveillance cameras that was released Wednesday, Flusche was standing by the side of the counter. He reached behind the low door and unlatched it, then quickly approached the Subway employee behind the counter, striking him.
For the approximately next two minutes of footage, Flusche attacked the man as a number of bystanders tried to intervene.
At one point, a woman went behind the counter and unsuccessfully tried to pull Flusche off the worker. She then grabbed a metal sheet from the counter and hit Flusche repeatedly, but nothing seemed to stop him from attacking the Subway employee.
The woman called for help to people passing by, it appears in the soundless video, and at several points a number of others went behind the counter and tried to break the two men apart.
WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE.
For much of this time it was unclear exactly what Flusche was doing to the man on the ground.
Finally, two officers arrived and the victim, followed by a man in a tank-top who tried to break up the fight, fled from behind the counter. Flusche, with a bloodied face, was the last to exit from behind the counter.
A still photo of a surveillance camera shows Flusche just before he came from behind the counter. At that point, he still held the knife with which he had allegedly been stabbing the victim.
Body camera footage captured by Cha’s unnamed partner shows Flusche continuing to follow the man he’d been attacking. Within seconds, Cha fired a shot at Flusche, who fell to the ground.
Someone yelled, “Shots fired,” and more officers entered the Subway as Flusche lay on the ground, still moving.
Much of Cha’s body camera footage was blocked by what appeared to be his hand. His camera did not capture the moment of shooting.
While there were no more than a half dozen speakers, several expressed contrary opinions on the incident.
Jackie Barshak, with San Franciscans for Police Accountability, asked the chief and others if the officer had to fire his gun.
“Why couldn’t Officer Cha find another way?” she asked. “Why did he have to shoot to kill?”
Another speaker, Jamie DeJesus, commended the bystanders who tried to intervene, and another speaker thanked police for killing Flusche and stopping the attack.
The investigation is headed by homicide inspectors, but the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Police Accountability and the Internal Affairs unit of the police department are also involved. The DA’s office will ultimately decide if the shooting was criminal, and the IA unit will decide if any police were violated.
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