SF District Attorney says investigation into Woods shooting will be ‘quicker’ than usual

Screengrab from a video showing police officers shooting and killing Mario Woods in the Bayview Dec. 2, 2015. (Courtesy @krispyyyxchris via Twitter)

The day after the funeral of Mario Woods, protesters outside of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice were addressed by George Gascon,  San Francisco’s district attorney, who reassured them a fair and independent investigation into the police killing will take place.

What Gascon, a former police chief, did not openly address was what that investigation could lead to: whether he will be among a growing group of prosecutors across the country willing to file charges against police who have killed — often on video — black men with alleged excessive force.

“I think it’s really important to underline that videos are becoming a game changer,” said Gascon, who added that in the past that was not always the case.  “Videos are helping tell a story’ across the country. The way that these incidents are investigated is shifting very rapidly because of the presence of video”  

The investigation is going to move quicker than usual because of the video evidence already in hand.

Such investigations can take from nine months to a year, said Gascon. But in this case it will move much faster, he added, not saying when exactly he expects it to be complete.

Gascon said this is the first time in his career as a prosecutor in which a video has captured a whole police shooting incident.  “This is the first time for me, which makes our work easier in a way… We do have a significant part of the story right there in front of us.”  

The investigation may be moving faster than usual, but the protesters Gascon addressed are already calling for charges to be filed against the five officers who opened fire on Woods.

The last District Attorney who charged police in a similar high stakes case was more than a decade ago, when Terence Hallinan charged a handful of police brass for their part in allegedly covering up a brawl that included off duty officers. The scandal, known as FajitaGate, included then-Deputy Chief Greg Suhr, who faced charges along with other officers.

Woods’ killing has prompted police and city leaders to reassess the police department’s use of force policy, including a renewed call for equipping police with Tasers.

Gascon said Friday the call for Tasers, which he has backed in the past and still supports, is a simplistic approach that will not solve the bigger issues around police brutality.

“I think it’s simplistic to bring the Taser now as an answer to what occurred here,” Gascon said. “This shooting is not about a conversation about Tasers, and I think some people are trying to make it look like we are getting Tasers and the problem is solved”

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