The condition of a San Francisco police officer shot in the head Oct. 14 has improved enough to move him from a hospital to a rehabilitation facility, according to the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which is speaking for the officer’s family.
Officer Kevin Downs, who was left partially paralyzed, was transferred from San Francisco General Hospital to another facility after being shot in the head by 26-year-old Pacifica resident Nick McWherter near the Lakeshore Shopping Center.
“The shot fractured Kevin’s skull and missed a main artery by less than a
centimeter,” reads a statement from the family via the POA. “The fracture caused trauma to his brain. This trauma currently leaves Kevin paralyzed in his right leg. He has regained some use of his right arm.”
The statement continues, “Kevin is determined through intense physical therapy and state of the art neurological treatments to walk again and ultimately return to full duty as a San Francisco police officer.”
At a town hall Thursday night, Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin said police responded at 8:10 p.m. Oct. 14 to the Big 5 Sporting Goods store on a report of someone threatening customers and trying to instigate a fight. Later police learned that McWherter was trying to instigate a fight with a security guard who pepper-sprayed McWherter without success, Chaplin said.
Four minutes later officers arrived and McWherter opened fire, hitting Downs.
“So the shooting happened almost instantly,” Chaplin said.
Police were not aware that McWherter had a gun. He has no previous arrest history in San Francisco, a police spokesperson said. Police have determined how McWherter got the gun, but they are not releasing that information yet.
McWherter ran to Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove and encountered police again at 28th Avenue and Vicente Street where he tried to run from police. Officers pursued him and in a wooded area McWherter fired at officers. Officers returned fire and hit McWherter four times.
Despite officers’ commands to drop his gun, McWherter allegedly kept it to his chest as he lay on the ground. Police deployed flash-bang devices to distract him and take him into custody before he was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with critical injuries.
Chaplin said it was 20 minutes from the time McWherter opened fire on Downs to the time he was arrested.
San Francisco police recently deployed body-worn cameras in response to numerous officer-involved shootings that led to the departure of police Chief Greg Suhr. But the two officers who shot McWherter did not have their cameras.
Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the two officers were not wearing their cameras because they had just finished their shifts and turned in their equipment when they responded to the shooting of Downs.
The two officers fired 21 rounds at McWherter and hit him four times.
Four investigations have been opened into the shooting. The San Francisco Police Department has opened both an administrative and criminal investigation and both the Office of Citizen Complaints and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office have opened investigations.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.