A still from video footage of the April 21 police shooting in the Tenderloin (Courtesy SFPD)

Video shows moments before Tenderloin officer shoots at man armed with screwdriver

Shooting led to hours-long standoff at Glide Memorial Church

Authorities in San Francisco on Thursday released video footage and 911 calls from a police shooting that led to a lengthy standoff at a community center in the Tenderloin last week.

During a town hall meeting held virtually due to the coronavirus, Police Chief Bill Scott and his brass detailed the series of events that started with an assault on the morning of April 21.

Police identified the suspect in as Thomas E. O’Bannon, 31, of San Francisco. The officer who shot at O’Bannon is Jordan R. Townsend, an officer from Tenderloin Station and four-year San Francisco Police Department veteran.

O’Bannon was not struck by gunfire, according to Cmdr. Robert O’Sullivan.

The chaos began when O’Bannon allegedly used a wooden board to attack a man who was walking his dog on the 400 block of Post Street at around 5:30 a.m., police said.

The man suffered facial injuries including a bloody nose.

About an hour later, O’Bannon allegedly locked himself in an office at the lobby of the Pierre Hotel at 540 Jones St. A 911 caller said he had a bloody wooden board and possibly a knife.

“I got to get off the phone, he looks like he is about to hit my co-worker,” the caller said before hanging up.

Presentation for Town Hall Meeting Regarding April 21, 2020 OIS from San Francisco Police on Vimeo.

Body-worn camera footage shows officers walking into the hotel and asking O’Bannon to come out peacefully.

“Let us help you,” an officer can be heard telling O’Bannon, asking to handcuff him. The officers noted that O’Bannon had blood on his hand and a wooden board.

“I had a great plan to get us out of here and to end this little standoff without anyone getting hurt,” an officer told O’Bannon. “Why are you so angry? Can you not. I asked you for a peaceful resolution of this situation. You did not cooperate with me.”

Both a case manager with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and a paramedic are seen in the videos attempting to offer O’Bannon assistance without success.

Shortly before 8 a.m., security footage from inside the office appears to show O’Bannon hitting the walls with the wooden board as officers attempted to enter and arrest him.

O’Bannon is seen holding a screw driver in the video. Officers used pepper spray and a bean bag gun against him.

Multiple videos then showed the officers rushing to back out of the building onto the sidewalk with O’Bannon in pursuit. Police said he was following the officers with the screwdriver in his hand.

An officer then tripped on the sidewalk and fell to the ground. The officer appears to have opened fire when O’Bannon reached toward him.

The officer, identified as Townsend, discharged his weapon three times and missed, according to O’Sullivan. Police said O’Bannon had the screw driver in his hand when he advanced on Townsend.

O’Bannon then turned and ran down the street to Glide Memorial Church at 330 Ellis St., where he barricaded himself for some 11 hours while crisis negotiators and tactical teams responded.

Police said O’Bannon barricaded himself in the basement and armed himself with two kitchen knife. “During this time period, Mr. O’Bannon made statements that expressed his intention to be killed by officers, police said.” His family came to help police.

He was eventually arrested by tactical officers and taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

A still from video footage of the April 21 police shooting in the Tenderloin (Courtesy SFPD)

Capt. Carl Fabbri, the commanding officer of Tenderloin Station, thanked Townsend during the town hall meeting as well as tactical officers and community members who helped police during the standoff Glide.

“Officer Townsend and his partner’s full-time assignment at Tenderloin Station is working with the homeless population on the street, steering them toward resources, offering advice, showing compassion and providing support in any way they can,” Fabbri said. “I look forward to maintaining and building upon the relationships and trust our officers and community value so much in the Tenderloin.”

But Deputy Public Defender Kathleen Natividad, an attorney for O’Bannon, criticized police for the handling of the incident. She said her client was badly hurt and remains at the hospital.

“From the limited material we’ve received, this appears to be yet another example of SFPD making a difficult situation far worse by their unskilled approach to a person in obvious crisis and being far too quick to resort to gunfire on public streets in broad daylight, endangering the community under the guise of protecting it,” Natividad said.

Natividad noted that O’Bannon has not been charged with any crimes against the police.

Last week, he was charged with two counts of assault related to the initial incident on Post Street as well as two sentencing enhancements, according to police.

The case remains under investigation by multiple entities.

The footage and 911 calls can be viewed here.

This story has been updated.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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