The family of a San Francisco man killed by police in Daly City rallied Wednesday evening near the residential street where authorities say a struggle over a fake gun ended with an officer opening fire.
Roger Allen, 44, died at a hospital in San Francisco after being shot once in the chest by a Daly City police officer on the afternoon of April 7 on Niantic Avenue between Citrus and Westlake avenues.
The shooting comes as tensions run high across the nation over police violence, with the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin underway and protesters demonstrating over the police killing of another Black man in the area, Daunte Wright.
In Daly City, dozens of supporters gathered to demand transparency in the Allen case, holding up signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and describing Allen as innocent.
“My family wants the truth and we want justice,” said Talika Fletcher, his sister. “There’s too many Black brothers and Black sisters out here dying behind cops. It’s not fair, regardless of what color they are it’s not fair. You are supposed to protect us, not kill us. Now we are scared of y’all.”
The Daly City Police Department has thus far released few details about the shooting, and city officials have declined to release the names of the officers present at the scene, citing an active investigation into the matter. But county prosecutors have offered a fuller accounting of what allegedly occurred.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Allen was sitting in the front passenger seat of a parked truck along with two other people when police came upon the vehicle and asked the driver whether he needed help with a damaged rear tire.
A struggle ensued between Allen and one of the four officers who arrived at the scene after an officer noticed Allen had “what appeared to be a Glock firearm” on his lap, Wagstaffe said. One of the officers reached into the truck and grabbed Allen’s hand as well as the gun in an attempt to “prevent it being fired at the officers or the other vehicle occupants.”
During the struggle, one officer was struck in the forehead by a small object that may have been a BB fired from the replica gun, according to Wagstaffe. One of the officers shot twice when the fake gun was pointed at the face of the officer struggling with Allen, striking Allen once in the chest and lodging a second bullet inside the vehicle.
The officer who opened fire later reported fearing “that his fellow officer was going to be shot in the face,” Wagstaffe said. But authorities would ultimately determine that the replica gun was not a real firearm despite its being stamped with the word “Glock” and not being marked with the color orange around the tip.
Allen’s family and supporters have disputed the official account of the shooting.
“To our knowledge, all that information is not true,” said Jas Ordonez, an organizer with the local social justice advocacy group 4DalyCity. “The family’s ready to speak their truth. Right now, they’re feeling obviously heartbroken. They want transparency.”
Fletcher said the official version of events did not ring true with her image of her brother.
“He was a good man, he was a loving brother, a good father,” Fletcher said. “Things y’all saying that’s not my brother. Y’all never should have did it.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, civil rights attorney John Burris said he was contacted by the family and has agreed to investigate the case to determine whether the killing was unlawful.
“All I know is that the man is dead and we now find out that there was a fake gun that was there,” said Burris, whose law firm is known for handling police brutality cases.
Burris said his investigators are looking into how police came to arrive at the scene in the first place.
Without going into details, Burris said Allen was unemployed at the time of the shooting and has “had life issues.”
The shooting is an unusual case with no known video evidence, in an era when many police killings nationwide are captured on body-worn cameras, surveillance equipment or cellphone video by bystanders.
Wagstaffe said authorities have not recovered any video footage of the shooting as of Wednesday morning.
Burris said there is a rumor cellphone photos exist of the incident, but the images have not surfaced. He called the lack of footage “shocking” and “surprising in this day and age.”
Daly City is one of just two police departments in San Mateo County without body-worn cameras out of some 20 law enforcement agencies in the area, according to Wagstaffe. The other is the Redwood City Police Department.
While Wagstaffe said Daly City police have been cleared to equip officers with the devices, the rollout has not happened yet. Redwood City is planning to equip officers with cameras in the coming months, according to the San Mateo Daily Journal.
At the local City Council meeting Monday, community members criticized members for not speaking up about the shooting and urged them to bring transparency to the case.
“There is an investigation that is going on and we’re all concerned,” Mayor Juslyn Manalo said at the meeting. “We are committed to transparency. At this time, there is a further investigation.”
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office is expected to decide whether to charge the officer who opened fire on Allen within eight to 10 weeks. The office is leading the investigation into the shooting.