Community questions tactics in officer-involved shootings

Two officer-involved shootings have occurred in Winnie Tsang’s neighborhood in the past year. On Thursday night, she was at a community meeting to find out why.

Tsang and dozens of her Portola neighbors were at Grace Lutheran Church to learn about the most recent incident, which left Vinh Bui dead.

According to police, Bui was involved in a stabbing at a residence in the 600 block of Bacon Street on Wednesday night. Still holding the weapon, Bui approached officers as they asked him to put down the scalpel. Bui, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, was shot and later died at a hospital.

Tsang wanted to know why officers shoot to kill and why the Police Department was not issued less-lethal weapons, such as Tasers.

“[Stun guns] are better than a gun,” the 30-year Portola resident said. “A Taser can kill, but maybe only 60 to 70 percent of the time — it’s better than 90 percent if they’re using a gun.”

Police Chief George Gascón said that while stun guns will not prevent all officer-involved shootings, they could greatly decrease the number that end as fatalities.

Gascón has been pushing for the use of stun guns, but a proposal was shot down by the Police Commission in March.

Portola resident Edward Hom, 36, said the SFPD needs to look at its policies on how to handle mental illness and minority community members.

“I think the Asian community needs to speak up more,” Hom said. “Someone’s loved one died and that’s not OK.”

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes Portola, agreed with Hom. She said while the shooting is a tragedy, she hoped it would prompt the SFPD to look at its policies and better address the way officers handle mentally ill people.

“I hope we see this as an opportunity to do a better job,” Maxwell said.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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