A woman holds up sign with the name and photo of Mario Woods, who was shot and killed by SFPD in 2015, at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A woman holds up sign with the name and photo of Mario Woods, who was shot and killed by SFPD in 2015, at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Watchdog pins police killing of Mario Woods on policy failures

High-profile shooting prompted widespread outrage, calls for police reform

San Francisco’s police watchdog found that the officers involved in the police killing of Mario Woods used unnecessary force, but the agency did not seek discipline against them, newly released records show.

The Department of Police Accountability instead blamed the high-profile shooting on policy failures rather than the officers who opened fire on Woods in December 2015, according to a report on its findings released Thursday.

The DPA concluded that the San Francisco Police Department failed to require the use of de-escalation tactics at the time. The Police Commission later updated the SFPD use-of-force policy to emphasize the need for time and distance in response to the shooting.

Woods was killed when five officers responding to a report of a stabbing fired 26 rounds at him on a Bayview sidewalk, while another three officers either used bean-bag guns or pepper spray against him. Video of the shooting prompted widespread outrage and calls for police reform.

The DPA found that their actions each amounted to a “policy failure.”

“Arguably, the named officers’ conduct at the moment they used deadly force could be found in policy in light of the Department’s Use of Firearm policy that existed at the time of the incident,” the DPA wrote in July 2020. “In fact, SFPD did find the officers’ conduct in policy.

“However, when considering the entire chain of events that lead to the officers’ use of lethal force, the DPA concludes that the excessive force allegation is the result of a policy failure,” the DPA continued.


The DPA made a series of policy recommendations to the SFPD regarding the investigation and review of police shootings as well as of less-lethal options used during such incidents.

The SFPD did not return a request for comment.

Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, blasted the DPA in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner.

“Law enforcement professionals investigated this case and determined that our officers acted within the law and department policy,” Montoya said. “We trust their professional expertise over that of political appointees.”

SFPD Internal Affairs has previously found that the five officers who shot Woods acted within department policy. Then-District Attorney George Gascon also declined to charge the officers in 2018, but he did call the shooting “unnecessary.”

Gascon later used the shooting to advocate for state legislation that raised the standard required for when officers can legally use deadly force.

DPA Director Paul Henderson could not comment directly on the case but noted the work his department has done to update SFPD policy.

“DPA made several policy recommendations as a result of this case, many of which have already been implemented,” Henderson said.

The five officers who shot at Woods are Charles August, Winston Seto, Antonio Santos, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips.

Officers Shaun Navarro, Jennifer Traw and Jesse Ortiz either used a bean-bag gun or pepper spray against him.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimesan francisco news

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read