San Francisco police released more than 1,000 pages of previously secret investigative files on Friday under a new state transparency law that is revealing details about police shootings and misconduct across California.
The documents, from a July 2010 shooting outside a strip club in North Beach in which an officer fired a single shot, are among the first disclosures that the San Francisco Police Department has made under Senate Bill 1421.
The legislation requires the release of previously confidential records not only on police shootings but in cases where officers have been found to have lied or committed sexual assault.
SB 1421 took effect Jan. 1, but faced legal challenges from police unions throughout the state including the San Francisco Police Officers Association. The SFPOA attempted to block the release of records from before 2019, but withdrew its lawsuit last month as other unions lost their cases.
The first batch of records from the SFPD released to The San Francisco Examiner includes the homicide and internal affairs reports as well as a large number of pages of transcripts on the July 3, 2010 shooting outside the Little Darlings strip club.
Early that morning, then-Inspector John “Jay” Newman fired a shot at a man suspected of shooting three other people as an argument unfolded between a large crowd of people near Columbus Avenue and Broadway.
Newman and then-Sgt. John Kasper were in plainclothes when they spotted the crowd while driving around North Beach in an unmarked police car. The officers believed the group “had possible gang affiliation,” according to a summary of the case presented to the Police Commission.
Within 10 seconds of seeing the group, the officers heard gunshots. As the shooter walked away, Newman exited the police car and took a defensive position. He told investigators that he fired a shot at the suspect when the man turned toward him with a gun after he yelled, “drop the fucking gun!”
“I knew I was in danger,” Newman said. “I didn’t know where my partner was, I felt my life was threatened, I feared for my life and I took one shot.”
The bullet did not strike the suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Rudy Mejia.
Mejia dropped to the ground and Newman detained him.
After the shooting, Newman was returned to duty without discipline based on the recommendation of then-Police Chief George Gascon and a police panel called the Firearms Discharge Review Board.
After being elected district attorney, Gascon found that Newman acted in self-defense and in defense of others when the officer shot at Mejia. Gascon declined to charge Newman criminally in August 2012.
Mejia pled guilty to one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon in March 2012 and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
In all, he allegedly shot three people. One person was shot in the leg, another was shot twice in the foot and the third was grazed in the calf.
The records amount to just the first release in a process that is likely to continue over the coming weeks if not longer. The documents included some pages that were heavily redacted.
In addition to the SFPD, agencies including the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department are also expected to release records soon under SB 1421.