Mark Coats was at home with his family in December 2019 when a gunman followed his nephew through the front door. Coats, 50, managed to push his nephew to safety. But he was shot repeatedly and died after being taken to a hospital.
More than a year after the shooting in Bayview-Hunters Point, San Francisco police have not made an arrest in the case. Now, his family is urging anyone with information on the shooter to come forward.
The Coats family is planning to unveil a billboard at Third Street and Underwood Avenue on Monday offering an unspecified reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
“We can’t bring him back,” said his uncle, Theris Coats. “But if we can just get somebody to just say something, you know, well, we can close this thing out in our own minds.”
Coats was shot and killed Dec. 7, 2019 at his home on Oakdale Avenue between Ingalls Street and Baldwin Court at around 8:10 p.m. Police Chief Bill Scott said at the time that the shooter ran away on foot and had not been identified.
A police spokesperson said the case remained open as of Thursday, but was unable to comment further by press time.
Coats was one of 41 people killed in San Francisco in 2019. While homicides reached a decades-low in The City that year, deadly violence persisted in the historically Black southeast where Coats was killed.
Coats’ family is hoping the billboard will draw attention to the broader issues of violence in the area.
“People are killed all the time, and nothing is ever done,” said his sister, Romona Burton. “And so I am hoping that this billboard also encourages other families who have had some sort of loss, or other people who know something about any type of crime that is happening there, to do something about it. We have to change our behavior in order to see change.”
Coats was born and raised in San Francisco along with seven other siblings. The family lived in the Ingleside District until their dad lost his job, after which they moved to the Bayview-Hunters Point area, Burton said. Burton said Coats took on a protector role in their family.
“It was rough for us when we first moved there, because we were new there, and so it was a lot of contention, a lot of fights early on, but Mark was the one that protected us,” Burton said. “And he also was the one who facilitated the relationships with people in that community so that we also eventually became a part of that community. And we wouldn’t have been able to do that without him.”
Coats worked two full-time jobs: one for San Francisco in janitorial positions for the San Francisco Public Library, and one for All-Hallows housing department. In his spare time, he bought, fixed up and resold cars.
Coats’ family remember him as being a hard worker, funny, respectful, charismatic, caring and an amazing singer. He was “all about family,” Theris Coats said, and his sister recalls that they would have family dinners every Sunday. Coats left behind four children, six siblings and a close-knit extended family.
His death was not the first unexpected tragedy experienced by the Coats family. In 2006, 29-year-old brother Marlin Coats died after he jumped in the water to save two young boys who were caught in a riptide at Ocean Beach.
Burton said this event speaks volumes about her family.
“It is just all of the character of who we are, who our family is, and how we have and will continue to help others that need help,” Burton said. “But we’re just asking that somebody help us at this point. If you know something, say something, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Theris Coats said he hopes the billboard will raise awareness that “Mark was a great person.”
“He has a family and he deserves some justice here,” Theris Coats said.
Anyone with information about the shooting can call the SFPD tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text TIP411 and begin the message with “SFPD.”