Activists calling for the firing of a former San Francisco police officer involved in the 2016 fatal shooting of a homeless Mayan immigrant launched a hunger strike outside Antioch police headquarters Friday night.
Six strikers, who named themselves the #6Forced2Strike, asked for the “immediate termination” of officer Michael Mellone and Steve Aiello, president of Antioch Police Officers’ Association, as well as the election of a community-chosen representative for an upcoming police reform public forum called Bridging the Gap.
Mellone was one of two officers involved in the 2016 fatal shooting of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat in the Mission District. The Department of Police Accountability in June of 2019 recommended that he be suspended for 45 days in connection with the shooting for failing to follow “almost every directive” before deploying and firing a bean bag gun at Góngora.
However, Mellone resigned from SFPD before disciplinary action was taken, and was hired by the Antioch Police Department in Aug. 2019, as first reported by the San Francisco Examiner.
“I’m doing this more as an individual from San Francisco who was around in 2016 when Luis was killed. That’s why I’m participating,” said Michael James, a #6Forced2Strike member whose family has activism roots in the Mission.
James became an activist when Alex Nieto was likewise shot dead by SFPD officers in 2014.
“My family knew Alex. He was a close friend of ours, and Alex was part of the Mission,” James said. “My family got involved with the Frisco Five too. Enough is enough — that’s what got me into this work. It’s in my family’s blood.”
The Frisco Five, who started a hunger strike 14 days after Góngora’s death, cited the deaths of Góngora and Nieto as evidence of the excessive force used by police against people of color.
For #6ForcedToStrike member Lacey Brown, evidence of excessive force can be found in Facebook comments too, such as one made by Aiello.
In response to a photograph of a woman giving police officers the middle finger, Aiello wrote “I firmly believe an open hand slap to the face is 100% justified in this incidents (sic).”
“It’s not the right type of leadership, nor do you want someone like that on the street. The police do not have the right to exert violence against someone who’s not committing a crime,” Brown said. “He [Aiello] later made a public comment, not apologizing but saying it was taken out of context when there was no context. We want him to step down or be removed.”
Antioch Chief of Police Tammany Brooks and a media spokesperson could not be reached for comment Friday.