The 26-year-old man whose shooting death at the hands of San Francisco police Wednesday was caught in a grisly cellphone video, was a documented gang member who served prison time — but his family said he was a man who served his time and was turning his life around.
Meanwhile, the family of Mario Woods, who was killed at the hands of police, is stunned at the violence of his death and the circumstances in which he died, questioning why police had to use such force.
“The family is like, they’re lost for words. The mom simply can’t believe that her son was shot that many times and he did not pose a threat. He never pointed the knife in their direction,” said Shawn Richard with the anti-violence organization Brothers Against Guns. Richard is acting as a spokesman for Woods’s mother Gwendolyn Woods.
Richard says Woods had only been out of prison for four months and was set to begin a new job with UPS.
“He was just trying to do the right thing,” said Richard.
Woods had been living with his mother, said Richard, who added that she had said he was not himself since getting out of prison.
“Mom said that she felt that he was a little different when he came home,” said Richard. “She didn’t know quite what it was. He was struggling with a lot of issues.”
Woods’s mother first learned about her son’s death, said Richard, at around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday after looking on Facebook. She quickly ran to the scene of the shooting but his body had already been taken away. The next morning she got a call from the Medical Examiner’s officer confirming Woods as the shooting victim.
Woods, who was shot dead by a group of police Wednesday, was named in a 2009 civil injunction as an active member of the Oakdale Mob. The injunction was filed by the City Attorney’s office as a way to help reduce gang activity in The City.
His gang-related activities included armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, shooting incidents, weapons possession offenses and driving a stolen car. Woods was also involved in an automobile injury accident that occurred while fleeing from police, according to the City Attorney’s Office. It is unclear if Woods was ever charged for the alleged shooting incidents or the two automobile incidents.
The injunction, originally from 2007, was meant to target gang activities across The City and impacted seven gangs from the Mission and Western Addition to Bayview and Visitacion Valley.
The injunction limited who suspected gang members in certain geographical areas could be in public with. Specifically, they are barred from consorting with other suspected gang members.
Woods also had a criminal record, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of a firearm by a felon, but the original charges included carrying a loaded firearm in a public place.
In another case from that same year, which was resolved in 2010, he faced robbery charges with gang enhancements. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to robbery and participating in a street gang and was sentenced to seven years in state prison. He already had served 895 days in County Jail.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Lee spoke to the press about the shooting Thursday.
“Anytime there is an officer-involved shooting I take that extremely seriously and so does our chief.,” said Lee. ”I’ve seen the video too… I’ve already spoken to the chief. There will be a thorough and transparent investigation without delay. We will make sure the community knows all the details about this.”
Witness video posted online to Instagram appears to show the moments before the fatal shooting when several police officers surrounded Woods on a Third Street sidewalk near Gilman Avenue around 4:35 p.m.
The camera’s view is obscured when police open fire, and the barrage of gunshots can only be heard.
About 45 minutes before the police shooting, a victim who had been stabbed in the shoulder walked into San Francisco General Hospital and described his assailant. The victim is expected to survive.
The victim, who was stabbed near Third Street and Le Conte Avenue, about six blocks away from the fatal shooting, described the alleged stabber as “still being in the area,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said. After a witness also confirmed the man was nearby, Bayview officers set up a perimeter around 4:20 p.m.
The officers were just wrapping up their search for the suspect when other officers found Woods on the 2900 block of Keith, between Gilman and LeConte avenues, Suhr said. Woods was reportedly armed with the kitchen knife police believe was used in the stabbing.
The officers convened and told the man to drop his weapon, Suhr said. Witnesses on a nearby bus reportedly confirmed the exchange to police.
Police fired and struck Woods several times with beanbags while moving away from him, at one point knocking him to the ground, Suhr said. But when an officer tried to cut off the man’s path, and the man moved toward him carrying the knife, five officers opened fire, killing him.
Michael Barba and Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.
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