SFPD: Witnesses say man killed by police was coming at officers with knife

San Francisco police officials reaffirmed Friday that the man whom officers shot and killed Thursday was wielding a kitchen knife and charging officers, contradicting eye witness reports.

The new details in the killing were given by Cmdr. Greg McEachern at a quickly called news conference Friday soon after video surveillance of the shooting was leaked to the media. McEachern said the news conference was in part meant to counter initial media reports that witnesses said the man who was killed by police did not pull out a knife.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the man as Luis Gongora, 45, of San Francisco.

The footage, reported by SFGate, did not show the actual shooting but did reveal how little time passed between when the officers arrived on the scene on Shotwell Street between 18th and 19th streets and when they opened fired with bean bag shots and then seven live rounds. The officers can be heard making commands to “stop” and then seconds later, shots are heard.

Police said Friday they have the same video but will not be releasing it to the media.

McEachern said inspectors have interviewed 10 witnesses in the case so far. He read statements of four witnesses Friday, three of which said that the Gongora was coming at the officers with a kitchen knife.

“He moved towards officers with a knife in his hand,” said McEachern.

But a witness Thursday told the Examiner that Gongora’s knife was in his waste band.

“The knife was up on his hip the whole time,” said 33-year-old John Visor, who lives in a tent on Shotwell. “He didn’t have no knife in his hand when the officers were around him.”

Visor said Gongora was kicking a soccer ball before two patrol cars and an SUV arrived. Visor said the two officers asked him and the woman he lives with if they had seen anyone with a knife. They said no.

“The next thing, one the officers had a shotgun in their hand,” Visor told the Examiner Thursday. “He cocked it back and hit him with the beanbag two times. And that’s when the sergeant pulled his gun out and opened fire right then.”

McEachern said Visor was interviewed and he did not tell police about the knife being in Gongora’s hand.

Reyna Maldonado, a neighbor who lives near a homeless encampment on Shotwell Street and 18th, signs the tent of Luis Gongora, who was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers on April 7 (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriquez/S.F. Examiner)

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Reyna Maldonado, a neighbor who lives near a homeless encampment on Shotwell Street and 18th, signs the tent of Luis Gongora, who was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers on April 7 (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriquez/S.F. Examiner)

S.F. Examiner staff writer Michael Barba contributed to this report.

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