A street memorial on Shotwell Street for Luis Gongora, 45, who was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers, April 7. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Shotwell tents destroyed as friends mourn homeless man shot by SFPD

The fallout was swift.

Thursday morning, San Francisco Police Department officers shot and killed Luis Gongora, a homeless man, at his Shotwell Street tent.

Friday night, Public Works cleared out tents of Gongora’s neighbors and friends, after Mayor Ed Lee announced he would clear Shotwell.

Saturday night, SFPD told the few remaining homeless on Shotwell to leave, moments of which were captured on video. On camera, officers pulled apart the tents, piece by piece as the rain fell. Ripping nylon can be heard as police teared into tents with knives.

Sunday, Gongora’s friends stood amidst broken tent poles, scattered clothes, and even a bent painting of a sunny beach. Most was rubble.

One of the only tents left intact was Gongora’s, gray and dusky blue.

His friends faithfully protected it. They signed their names to it, one by one, to honor him.

“He was hands down one of the dopest men you could ever meet in your lifetime,” said Markael Raybond, who called Gongora his best friend.

Through tears, he said that when life at the camp was rough, Gongora “stepped up for me.”

As Raybond spoke to the San Francisco Examiner, he fixed a slipped chain on the bike of another homeless camper, and handed out food to others on Shotwell.

Video courtesy of Adriana Camarena, a local activist, show SFPD officers tearing down the tents of homeless on Shotwell street Saturday night.

Two neighbors, Reyna Maldonado and Michelle Castro, both students, provided pasta and croissants to the Shotwell campers.

They did so to honor Gongora, they said.

Castro, 21, said the tents had been there “forever,” but people there never harmed anyone nearby.

Instead, they are neighbors, she said, “They say hi.”

Gongora mainly spoke Spanish. Many said he would often kick a soccer ball against the wall for fun. At a street memorial in his memory, someone fixed a soccer ball scrawled with “RIP LUIS” to a post.

Many said they were close to him.

Buffie Ephrian has lived on Shotwell off and on for two years. After fleeing Mississippi from parents who would not accept her for her sexuality, she said, Gongora was among the first people to offer her shelter.

She was surprised he would be so kind to someone who identifies as transgender.

A street memorial on Shotwell Street for Luis Gongora, 45, who was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers, April 7. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
A street memorial on Shotwell Street for Luis Gongora, 45, who was shot and killed by San Francisco Police Department officers, April 7. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Ephrian was critical of the SFPD, who claim officers defended themselves as Gongora wielded a knife. Witnesses the Examiner spoke to Thursday contradicted that account.

“Everyone keeps a weapon on them,” Ephrian said, “it’s for safety.”

But Ephrian said Gongora was never aggressive in her two years of knowing him.

Listen to Ephrian talk about when she first met Luis Gongora, on video, here.

Over the weekend Lee publicly said he plans to take down all tent encampments and shelter all homeless.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said he supports the plan.

“It’s neither humane nor progressive to allow people to live, and ultimately deteriorate and die, in these encampments,” he said.

Supervisor David Campos said he has not yet seen Lee’s plan on where the homeless would be housed. Without providing shelter, he said, busting up camps is “like playing Whac-A-Mole, moving people around.”

Adriana Camarena, a local advocate, said breaking up camps is “absolutely the wrong response” to what she called police violence.

Camarena recorded video as the SFPD tried to clear the Shotwell Street tents, Saturday night. She said “it felt cruel, like harassment.”

Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for Public Works, said crews assisted moving nine people into a homeless navigation center “by transporting their belongings, at their request. We also hauled away things that people didn’t want.”

At the Shotwell Street camp, Ephrian said of Lee’s plan, “I wouldn’t mind that,” but she values the autonomy of tents, the freedom from curfews and other rules of the shelters.

And the waiting list for shelters is often long, she said.

“I don’t want to be dead before they call my name.”

Piles of trash where there were once tents, on Shotwell Street, after San Francisco Police Department officers and others took apart homeless tents there Saturday night, April 9. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
Piles of trash where there were once tents, on Shotwell Street, after San Francisco Police Department officers and others took apart homeless tents there Saturday night, April 9. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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)

homelessLuis GongoraMayor Ed LeeShotwell Street

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Piles of trash where there were once tents, on Shotwell Street, after San Francisco Police Department officers and others took apart homeless tents there Saturday night, April 9. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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