Why is Asa Sullivan dead?

After two weeks, the San Francisco Police Department still can't get its story straight — but the questions are mounting

> gwschulz@sfbg.com

Kahlil Sullivan hasn't had time to do much lately other than plan for his younger brother's funeral. He hasn't even had time to find out exactly why his brother is dead.
"We feel like we're lost," he said over the phone a week after his cornered and unarmed brother was shot and killed by the San Francisco Police Department.
The cops have offered two stories as to why officers fired a still-undisclosed number of bullets into the body of Asa Sullivan on June 6. And neither one seems to make much sense or explain why they shot Sullivan.
Meanwhile, the family hasn't been offered a dime for burial expenses from the Victim Services Division of the District Attorney's Office. The state won't spend money to help the families of former felons, but there's local money available too. That's off-limits, it turns out, because the SFPD hasn't classified Sullivan's death as an "unlawful killing," according to the DA's office.
Sullivan's mother, Kathleen Espinosa, even told us on the day of his funeral, June 15, that the department did not provide a liaison to the family, as the Office of Citizen Complaints two years ago recommended the SFPD do for the families of officer-involved shooting victims.
In fact, Espinosa hasn't heard a word from the department. Everything she knows has come largely from two stories in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Espinosa, a short, relentlessly cheerful woman with chestnut hair, held a smile throughout her son's funeral while hugging Sullivan's tearful young friends. She said any new information from the department right now hardly matters.
"Let them get their story straight first before they come to me," she said. "I don't want another wrong story."
According to early reports, Sullivan and his friend, 25-year-old Jason Martin, were staying with two tenants at a Villas Parkmerced townhouse, part of a 3,200-unit complex close to the San Francisco State University campus. Sullivan had been in some trouble in the past; his criminal record included an armed robbery, and he was on probation for selling pot. But he'd secured a job at Goodwill and had a six-year-old son to look after.
Martin and Sullivan were helping to clean up the townhouse so their friends could receive their security deposit when they moved out. The tenants were being evicted for not paying rent, but a Parkmerced official told the media that the tenants were still legally living there.
The cops said a neighbor called the police, believing the unit had been taken over by nonresidents. Police Chief Heather Fong insisted in press statements that the complex was having problems with squatters. But Parkmerced public policy director Bert Polacci told the Guardian that the complex had no such problems. If the cops had called him, he might have cleared up the residency status of the occupants of 2 Garces Drive.
When Officers Michelle Alvis and John Keesor arrived, they immediately detained Martin, in response to the neighbor's complaint. Sullivan, who feared going to jail for a probation violation, fled to a two-and-a-half-foot-high attic space.
The officers attempted to talk him down with Martin's help but eventually went into the attic. Martin later insisted, according to Espinosa, that he told the officers Sullivan was unarmed before they went after him.
The way the cops tell it, Sullivan — who would have been unable to stand up in the tiny space — took a combative stance from inside the attic, and the officers believed he had aimed a gun at them.
The department first reported that Sullivan had shot at the officers through the attic floor. Further, the cops reported that Sullivan's gun was found at the scene. The truth is, all they found was the case to a pair of eyeglasses.
SFPD spokesperson Neville Gittens told us only that the first story was based on "secondhand information" and "witness statements."
The official story changed several hours after the department offered its first explanation of what happened.

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