The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said Thursday that no criminal charges will be filed against police officers in three shootings, two of them fatal and one dating back to 2014.
The decisions issued Thursday in three officer-involved shootings go some way toward clearing a backlog of police shooting investigations in the District Attorney’s Office.
According to a 2016 civil grand jury report, the reports can take an average of 20 months to complete.
Prior to Thursday, the last decision in an officer-involved shooting investigation came in April in the Feb. 26, 2015, Mission District shooting of Amilcar Perez-Lopez, 21, a Guatemalan man armed with a knife. No charges were filed in that case, which sparked ongoing protests and a lawsuit by the family.
A number of other investigations into fatal police shootings remain unresolved, including the controversial shootings of Mario Woods in 2015 and Jose Luis Gongora and Jessica Williams in 2016. In all, the district attorney’s office appears to have 10 investigations still open into fatal police shootings that occurred between 2014 and this year, with the oldest being that of O’Shaine Evans, who was shot on Oct. 7, 2014.
The investigations resolved Thursday include the fatal shooting of Nicholas McWherter, who shot a San Francisco police officer before himself being gunned down by police near Stern Grove on Oct. 14, 2016.
McWherter, a 26-year-old Pacifica resident, first fired at officers near a Big 5 Sporting Goods store on Sloat Boulevard after they responded to a report of a mentally disturbed person, hitting Officer Kevin Downs in the head and causing serious injury, according to police.
He was shot later in the evening by Officers Nathan Chew and Paul Dominguez near Stern Grove after he allegedly fired at them, and died two days later at San Francisco General Hospital.
Ballistics analysis showed McWherter used the same gun in both shooting incidents, and an investigation found he had a history of increasing mental health issues, the report said.
On Sept. 15, 2016, the Pacifica Police Department had issued a written warning to patrol officers about McWherter about his potential for violent behavior and mental health issues.
“All available evidence supports the conclusion that Officers Dominguez and Chew acted in self-defense and in defense of others when they fired their weapons at McWherter,” the report said. “Under California law, the officers were justified in using deadly force because they faced an imminent danger to themselves and to others.”
The oldest shooting investigation cleared Thursday involves the death on Sept. 25, 2014, of Giovany Contreras-Sandoval in the Financial District. Contreras-Sandoval, a Richmond resident, was shot following a pursuit from the East Bay prompted by a report of a carjacking.
After a crash at California and Battery streets, civilian witnesses told officers that Contreras-Sandoval had a gun and had fired at least one shot before police arrived, according to the report.
When officers approached the vehicle, Contreras-Sandoval refused to put down his gun and instead raised it toward both a group of officers and of civilians in the area, the report said. The officers fired in self-defense, the report concludes.
The District Attorney’s Office also issued a decision Thursday in a non-injury shooting that occurred on May 21 of this year after officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at a home in the 2100 block of Quesada Avenue.
When officers encountered three robbery suspects leaving the house, one of the suspects fired at least five rounds at them.
One officer, Officer Dack Thompson, fired a single shot at the suspect, but no one was injured in the gunfire, the report notes. The District Attorney’s Office found Thompson acted in self-defense and defense of others.
The investigations were conducted by the district attorney’s office’s Independent Investigations Bureau. The Police Department also investigates police shootings and conducts administrative investigations once the District Attorney’s Office completes its criminal review.
Police have fatally shot two people this year, Nicholas Flusche, 26, on May 3 and Damian Murray, 46, on Sept. 24. In addition, officers shot and injured Sean Moore on Jan. 6, but Moore survived his injuries and ultimately saw all charges dropped against him in connection with that case.
Information on investigations into officer-involved shootings completed by the district attorney’s office can be found at http://sfdistrictattorney.org/officer-involved-shooting-investigations.
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