More than 70 off-duty San Francisco police officers who filled a Tenderloin community center Wednesday night to support the officers involved in the shooting death of Mario Woods met a vocal crowd before they marched from the hall in an apparent sign of solidarity.
The crowd of officers showed up in response to calls by the powerful Police Officers Association for a show of force before the police commission and a show of support for the five officers involved in the Woods killing.
“I work with the officers that were there that day,” said Sgt. Tracy McCray, who called for people to wait for an investigation before making a judgment about what happened to Woods.
Another officer told the rowdy crowd, “The officers in the Woods case did the best that they could.”
But the large police presence did not sit well with many.
“Their presence is good to have,” said Brandon Williams, one of the protesters. “Then they walked out after a cop literally defended the shooting of Mario Woods. I couldn’t believe that they did that. They just bullied the community.”
The off-duty officers, along with POA president Martin Halloran and the union’s former president, Gary Delagnes, passed hollering protesters as they made exited the community center.
After their departure, another protester expressed his concern about the POA’s reaction to the Woods case.
“If the POA is a reflection of the police department, we are in a bad way,” Don Beckler said.
Outside the meeting, Halloran said the plan for the meeting was to let several minority officers speak before leaving. The POA president has been adamant in his defense of the officers involved in the Woods shooting — all of whom have returned to modified duty.
Halloran has said preliminary evidence indicates the officers involved in the Woods killing acted in accordance with police protocol. But at the same time, he has asked the public to wait for a complete investigation before making up their minds.
Meanwhile, the Woods family and protesters have called for the firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr. They are also seeking an independent federal investigation of the shooting and the prosecution of the five officers involved.
Suhr, who was in attendance Wednesday night, was told by more than one speaker that he should vacate his post. Suhr has been at the center of the criticism of the San Francisco Police Department, partly due to his comments after the incident, which seemed to say the officers were within their right to open fire. He has since denied this claim.
The police commission has been tasked by Mayor Ed Lee with rewriting the police department’s use-of-force rules — established in 1996 — following the Dec. 2 killing of Woods in the Bayview.
The killing was caught on video by several bystanders and went viral online.
Police responded to the scene after receiving report of a man who had been stabbed. Woods was holding a knife when they arrived, but video indicates he had his hands down when the police opened fire.
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