A U.S. Park Police officer says that he shot a man during a traffic stop near Aquatic Park out of fear for his life when the driver allegedly grabbed a pistol, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.
Metri Abdul-Karim, who has been a police officer since he joined the U.S. Park Police in July 2016, is identified in court records obtained Monday as the officer who shot 28-year-old Devon Flanagan at the end of Van Ness Avenue on Oct. 16.
Abdul-Karim has never before been named in connection with the shooting. The U.S. Park Police said after the shooting that it would not release his identity unless prosecutors filed criminal charges against him.
But Abdul-Karim testified in open court Oct. 30 during a preliminary hearing for Flanagan, who survived the shooting despite suffering life-threatening injuries and is facing charges related to illegal gun possession.
The Examiner reviewed transcripts of his testimony Monday.
On the stand, Abdul-Karim faced questions over whether Flanagan was reaching for a gun or for the gear shifter in his car. The officer also revealed that he did not issue any commands, such as “drop the gun,” before opening fire.
“If I had taken the time to say anything or done anything else, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you today,” Abdul-Karim testified.
The incident marked the most recent of six police shootings in The City this year, though the other five involved the San Francisco Police Department. Two of the shootings this year resulted in death.
During his testimony, Abdul-Karim described a “dangerous” encounter that started around 9:30 p.m. when Flanagan allegedly swerved down Van Ness Avenue toward the pier at Aquatic Park and stopped the sedan near his police cruiser.
Abdul-Karim said he walked up to the sedan to tell the driver “you’re going the wrong way.” But when he asked the driver to put the car in park, Flanagan allegedly started to comply before quickly reaching for a pistol wedged between the seat cushion and center console.
Abdul-Karim said he drew his firearm before Flanagan grabbed the pistol, which prosecutors said had an illegal extended magazine and was reported stolen out of another county.
“I believe the first shot I took, I watched it real quick, a split second, and then once that happened, I turned my head to run where I needed to go,” Abdul-Karim said. “I kept shooting, I believe, another two times.”
Abdul-Karim said he not only feared for his own life but for the safety of three bystanders in the area. Officers who reasonably believe their lives or the lives of others are in danger are legally allowed to use deadly force.
But Silas Geneson, an attorney for Flanagan, seemed to suggest during cross-examination that Flanagan may have been reaching for the gear shifter to put the car in park, not reaching for a gun.
Abdul-Karim also told Geneson that he had lifted the hood on his holster before approaching the window to the car because he felt “unsafe.” He claimed that Flanagan appeared impaired and was slurring his speech.
The officer said he fired two of the shots at Flanagan while running for cover.
“The second and third shot, I was facing away,” Abdul-Karim said.
When asked Monday whether he believed the shooting was justified, Geneson told the Examiner “it would not be appropriate at this time to argue the evidence elicited solely at preliminary hearing.”
“Whether the shooting was justified is an issue that may be litigated in other proceedings,” Geneson said.
Flanagan pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is currently being held at County Jail on $75,000 bail and is next scheduled to appear in court in March.
Flanagan has a criminal history that includes a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction and a 2009 arrest in connection with a homicide for which he was acquitted of murder, according to prosecutors.
Abdul-Karim remains an officer with the U.S. Park Police. A spokesperson for the agency said he is not currently on active patrol and is assigned to administrative duties.
There are currently multiple ongoing investigations into the shooting by the SFPD and District Attorney’s Office.
The incident also spawned a second case against a man who was in the passenger seat of Flanagan’s car.
Robert Francisco Quiroz, 21, was not injured in the shooting. He is also facing illegal gun possession charges but has been released from custody pending trial.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Flanagan has one prior felony conviction.