Members of the community hold signs in protest during a Town Hall meeting in response to the April 7 police shooting death of Luis Gongora held at the Laborers International Union building in San Francisco's Mission District Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Homeless man killed by SF police in April was shot six times, had meth in his system

Luis Pat Gongora, the homeless man who was fatally shot by San Francisco police in April, died from six bullet wounds and had drugs in his system when he was killed, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner Office’s autopsy released Thursday.

The April 7 killing of 45-year-old Mexican citizen Gongora, who was allegedly wielding a large knife, on Shotwell Street between 18th and 19th streets contributed to outrage among community members who saw his death as another example of a trigger-happy police force after the killing of Mario Woods on Dec. 2, 2015.

Gongora’s death also helped spark a more than two-week hunger strike by the Frisco 5, a five-member group who called for the resignation of then-police Chief Greg Suhr, and an independent investigation into recent police shootings. Suhr ended up resigning in May after the fatal police shooting in the Bayview of Jessica Williams.

Since Gongora’s death, police have released few details of the shooting even as the family has filed a civil rights lawsuit and an independent autopsy has been performed. Meanwhile, the multiple investigations into the matter continue.

Autopsy

The autopsy, performed April 8, shows that Gongora was shot in the head, chest, arm and upper back and had drugs in his system.

He was struck in the left forehead and the bullet exited above his left ear. It fractured his skull and caused hemorrhaging and lacerations to the brain, according to the autopsy.

An upper right shoulder wound had no exit, but fractured his humerus bone. Another bullet struck his right upper back, which came slightly from above, and then tore into his body and exited through the inside of his right arm.

The bullet that entered his front right chest exited through his lower chest. Two other bullets passed clean through his right arm, not breaking any bones.

The toxicology report shows that he had methamphetamine in his system as well as marijuana.

The incident

The incident began after homeless outreach teams on the street, which was lined with homeless camps, called police and reported a subject with a large kitchen knife.

The shooting happened almost immediately after police arrived, according to surveillance video that partially showed the incident. At first, according to witnesses at the scene, Gongora was sitting, but then got up and began to pace.

Officers were seen in the surveillance video getting out of their vehicles and hollering to someone off screen, most likely Gongora. Bean bag shots were fired by one of the officers, followed by live rounds. Gongora cannot be seen in the video’s frame.

He died later that day after unsuccessful surgery.

The officers involved, who were put on modified duty, were Officer Michael Mellone and Sgt. Nate Steger.

Independent autopsy

Adante Pointer, a lawyer from the law firm of civil rights attorney John Burris that’s representing the Gongora family, said the latest autopsy mirrors their independent autopsy. What those autopsies and the video show, Pointer said, is that Gongora was not a threat and the officers should be prosecuted.

“[The autopsy is] consistent with one officer firing two shots down towards the ground, which could have had Mr. Gongora in a position where he was not a threat,” said Pointer of the head shot that he believed killed Gongora.

“That was essentially a gratuitous shot and that was the fatal shot,” he said. “Mr. Gongora was actually on the ground or very close to it when that officer decided to pump two extra rounds into him.”

Criminal background

The report also lists a series of interactions that Gongora had with law enforcement. In 2010, Gongora was arrested for allegedly possessing and selling marijuana in San Francisco.

In 2014, he was arrested in Santa Clara County and placed on an immigration hold, but was transferred after four days to San Francisco on a warrant for felony assault. Later that year, Gongora spent four days in jail in Milpitas in the Elmwood Complex, which is the Santa Clara County jail.

Last year, he was arrested for obstructing traffic and laying in the road in San Francisco.

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