SFPD to answer questions on fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto

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Ben Bac Sierra, center, grieved with community members at a vigil for Alejandro Nieto, who was killed by police.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE


San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr will be on hand this evening [Tue/25] for a town hall meeting to discuss last week’s officer-involved shooting in Bernal Heights Park. The shooting victim, 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto, was a City College of San Francisco student, a Latino, and Bernal Heights resident who had hoped to become a youth probation officer.

Just before sunset last night [Mon/24], a group of about 150 friends, family members, and community supporters gathered for a vigil at the spot where he was gunned down by multiple police officers.

The community members lit candles, sang, burned incense, and conducted Buddhist chants in honor of his spiritual practice. Those who knew Nieto, whom they called Alex, described him as caring, ambitious, and committed to nonviolence.

“He was such a bright person,” said Ben Bac Sierra, an author and instructor at City College who knew Nieto through shared ties in the neighborhood. Nieto had been helping Bacsierra organize community events and book readings, he said. They’d rolled down Mission Street together in a classic low-rider for a parade, shouting “si se puede!” while onlookers cheered them on.

Torrance Bynum, former dean at City College’s Evans and Southeast Center campus and a former instructor of Administration of Justice, described himself to the Bay Guardian as Nieto’s mentor. “I would give him rides home from class,” he said. Nieto would stop by to visit him, and “if I was in a meeting, he would wait for me.” Bynum said he’d phoned Nieto on his birthday just a few weeks ago, March 4.

On Monday night, major questions still lingered about the events leading up to Nieto’s death.

A statement issued by the SFPD on March 21, about three hours after the shooting, said officers had arrived at the park in response to “911 calls of a male subject with a gun.” Police “encountered a male subject with a weapon,” the statement went on. “The male subject pointed a weapon at the officers, and multiple officers discharged their firearms.” (In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Deputy Police Chief Lyn Tomioka indicated that he “appeared to draw a weapon.”) He was pronounced dead, the statement noted, “and an additional weapon was found.”

In the days following the shooting, however, friends and family members told reporters that Nieto had a stun gun, not a firearm, because he worked as a security guard at a nightclub. They also said Nieto was peacefully eating a burrito just before the shooting occurred.

According to California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services records, Nieto obtained registration to work as a guard/patrolperson in June of 2007, and obtained a permit to carry a baton in September of 2013. Security guards must complete a 40-hour course of required training before registering with the state.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that just before the shooting, Nieto was “acting erratically and threatening passersby,” quoting an unnamed witness who said a man had threatened his dog with a “pistol-type stun gun” and yelled profanities. It also referenced a past incident involving Nieto's alleged use of a stun gun.

A person who declined to be named told the Bay Guardian that about half an hour before the shooting occurred, two men who were walking down the pedestrian pathway on the north slope of Bernal Heights Park alerted a jogger that there was a man ahead wearing a gun on his hip.

They told the jogger that they had called the police. The jogger, who was about 50 feet from the man and started moving away from him after receiving the warning, was too far away to see whether he had a weapon but noticed that he was “pacing back and forth” and “air boxing.”

When the Bay Guardian phoned the SFPD to ask what sort of weapon had been discovered, Sgt. Danielle Newman said she could not release that information.

“He was never arrested in his life,” Bac Sierra said of Nieto during the vigil. “He wanted to be a good person – and he was.”

Bac Sierra later told the Bay Guardian he'd first heard the news Saturday night, and spoke with members of Nieto’s family the following day. The family was not notified of what happened until 3pm the day after the shooting, he said. The report was that Nieto had been shot 14 times.

Sup. John Avalos, who represents the Excelsior District, said he had worked with Nieto in the past and knew him from Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth. “I was making sure that his life was going in a positive direction, and what we saw in Alejandro was that he had a really big heart,” Avalos said at last night’s vigil. “He gave it to a lot of people, and often probably didn’t give it enough to himself.”

He added, “Blood’s been shed, in this case, by people we’re supposed to trust. But … we have a lot of difficulty trusting our police, because from time to time these things happen."

Avalos also mentioned that when it comes to dealing with subjects who are mentally ill, SFPD has an established protocol. Under a program that began in 2011, specially trained officers with the department’s Crisis Intervention Team are to be dispatched to the scene when calls involve a mentally ill individual.

At tonight's meeting, Suhr is expected to answer questions from community members. Friends and supporters of Nieto are still in shock from the news.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I think all of us here should call on the Office of Citizen Complaints, and make sure they do an investigation,” Avalos said. “We need to make sure that the officer who – I really hope, despite all the shots that were fired, are having trouble with their consciences right now. Because taking anybody’s life, or hurting anyone in such a way, is unconscionable. This young man, he deserves that from all of us, to make sure the senseless taking of his life was not done in vain, that it leads to something better.”

Avalos said he was also there on behalf of Mission District Sup. David Campos, who was unable to attend because he was in a hearing.

The SFPD town hall is scheduled for 6pm at Leonard Flynn Elementary School, located at 3125 Cesar Chavez Street.

Bac Sierra urged everyone gathered at the vigil to attend the town hall meeting. “Those cops have to feel this,” he said. “This neighborhood has to feel this.”

Comments

Alex pulled what looked like a firearm of police officers. Their response was reasonable.

But why doesn't SFBG mention the restraining orders against Alex? Because it doesn't fit their narrative?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

Exactly. What are they supposed to do, wait to get shot to figure out if it's a real gun?

The NYC police museum has a firearm training video game that they use to demonstrate the difficulty of figuring out whether or not a scenario is one where it's appropriate to shoot. It's a virtual reality game with a light gun, like a very advanced Duck Hunt. It turns out the people who do worst at the training game are journalists. They get killed a lot. They shoot innocents a lot.

Posted by Dave on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

Yeah but the police are shooting way too soon all the time in this country now. There are tons of videos of cops shooting mentally ill people armed only with small pocket knives that are no way a threat to the dozens of police officers surrounding them. There's usually a reasonable amount of time in these situations to assess whether or not someone is actually pointing a gun at a cop before the decision to use deadly force is made. These cops are overreacting and doing it way too soon based on the actual threat citizens pose to the police. Granted in certain high crime gang areas they are rightfully on edge but I can't remember the last time a police officer was killed by a citizen in San Francisco. It's almost unheard of.

Posted by robotsrule on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 4:48 am

Fourteen times! They shot him FOURTEEN TIMES.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:06 am

both officers will discharge their weapons completely.

It can take several shots on target to stop a man, and of course some shots may miss.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:50 am

I am appalled at the fact this man was shot 14 times.
The SFPD general order for the discharge of a firearm* is at best very ambiguous No wonder this man was shot 14 times!

There are probably many questions that will need to be asked and to be answered.
My question is simple. was there anyway the officers could have defused the situation without use of a firearm? and if and only if they still thought the only way was to discharge their firearms , were they aimed calculated shots.
Would anyone disagree with the statement "its far better to disable then to KILL"?

Its easy for people to argue in the cold light of day but we were not there, I just hope and pray that those officers had no other choice but to use Lethal force! I also hope that if they have used the incorrect amount of force that they are never allowed to carry a firearm again.

My prayers go out to the family and friends of alex and to the whole community of San Francisco including the SFPD.

*DISCHARGE OF FIREARMS
1. PERMISSIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES. Except as limited by Sections CA and C.5., an
officer may discharge a firearm in any of the following circumstances:
a. In self-defense when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that he or she is
in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
b. In defense of another person when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that
the person is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. However, an
officer may not discharge a firearm at a person who presents a danger only to him or herself, and there is no reasonable cause to believe that the person poses an
imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or any other
person.
c. To apprehend a person when both of the following circumstances exist:
(1) The officer has reasonable cause to believe that the person has committed or
has attempted to commit a violent felony involving the use or threatened use
of deadly force; AND
(2) The officer has reasonable cause to believe that a substantial risk exists that
the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to officers or others if the
person's apprehension is delayed.
d. To kill a dangerous animal. To kill an animal that is so badly injured that
humanity requires its removal from further suffering where other alternatives are
impractical and the owner, if present, gives permission.
e. To signal for help for an urgent purpose when no other reasonable means can be
used.

Posted by Neil Loughbrough on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

Hollywood. The reality is that it can take several shots to stop a full-sized man attacking you, and that doesn't even count the shots that miss.

14 shots to fully neutralize a threat is commonplace.

I'm not saying the response was necessary as I wasn't there altho clearly the cops think so. Only that 14 shots isn't that much. I've heard of cases where 50-60 shots are fired, and more if the perp takes cover or is evading.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

It took 42 shots to "neutralize the threat" of a black man putting his hands up and brandishing a wallet. Shooting an innocent man 14 times is considered restraint.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 7:07 am

They did NOT shoot him 14 times! This article is crap! At the meeting, they said guns were FIRED 14 times. They didn't HIT him 14 times!!! They were 75 feet away! How could 14 out of 14 land?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 5:51 am

The shot him 14 times. Just because their aim wasn't perfect, it doesn't change or excuse what they did.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 7:09 am

you've been watching too much cop and robber TV shows

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2014 @ 7:46 am

Dave,

You have nailed it perfectly. Thank you!

Posted by GuestSee on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

Just the usual suspects trying to make this a race issue

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

I am a reasonable person and I don't consider any killing a good shoot!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:20 am

Because his suspicious behavior involve more than one of the officers firing at him right? Because his uniform and taser which, I assume, a police officer should be familiar with came off as something that needed multiple officers firing to be fixed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

Not a justified kill especially when the ones who said he pointed the weapon were the police. Not a justified killing shooting 50 rounds and 14 of them hit the body it was an overkill. Also, if Alex had mental illness, the police did not operate in a proper manner not a justified killing when shots were fired 75feet away without making sure that this was a tazer not justified when racially profiled by new neighbors that are prejudice Not justified to take a human life who most likely didn't point his tazer but rather trying to show the officers that it was a tazer not a gun This victim also had a restraining order on the individual that was harassing him. But that was personal info disclosed to media to make him look bad Also isn't there laws about disclosure of mental illness privacy laws?? Let's turn the tables. If it was your son or relative and they were on their way to work eating their food enjoying the view maybe singing or praying shadow boxing eating chips etc. would you want them to be massacred if all they were doing was trying to show the officers that it was a tazer how would you feel if your son was massacred and then they advertised his past problems that he was overcoming? Alex had no record or history of violence but rather the opposite. He was a volunteer from the community etc. I believe the real reason for his killing was that he was racially profiled by the new resident that have gentrified the neiborhood who called 911

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

The dead guy was waving a gun around forchrissake.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

It is rude and obviously hearsay unless you were the unfortunate person who reported Alejandro as a suspicious person waving around something. Unless you have personal knowledge of what was being waved around, then you are not thinking this through well and are contributing to false testimony. Maybe he was holding his foil wrapped burrito. In shootings the opinions of the public are sometimes as dangerous as the bullets fired from a gun

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:12 am

In fact, my account is more valid because it agrees with the police reports, and yours does not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:35 am

Upon reading this tragic story and hearing reports on investigative reporting Alejandro was eating a burrito. Is it possible when confronted by police he raised up his hand with the burrito which may have been wrapped in foil and the police mistook the foil to be a weapon? Without all the facts it is hard to draw any conclusions as to what actually happened. With enough community pressure, the truth may be told.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:03 am

weapon from its holster. It would be SOP to respond to that with deadly force.

Usually the cops have to ID themselves as police officers and order the perp to put down his weapon. But of course that assumes there is time to do that, which seems not to be the case here.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:11 am

I haven't read anything but news reports and reports on the radio. Have you seen the police report? Has it been released to the press? How can you make such a definitive statement?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:31 am

what happened according to the only witnesses that are known about.

I think we'd need a really compelling reason to believe a totally different account based only on speculation

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:43 am

a continued dialog is needed to end this kind of killing, regardless of who and what. Mistaken identity or mistaken witness reports. Witness reports are often inaccurate and it was reported the police were 75 feet away. My opinion is there are often mistakes made and of course, hindsight is always 20/20. Keeping that in mind helps me to temper what and how I say it. I just hope more info comes out so that this kind of violence is halted. I prefer questions as opposed to assumptions. We all have opinions and I try to keep mine in an area that questions rather than accuses.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:16 am

"We need to make sure that the officer who – I really hope, despite all the shots that were fired, are having trouble with their consciences right now." What a pathetic statement from a total asshole.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

Avalos didn't kill anybody, but sure he's the asshole here.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

His presence is actually an example of fairly deft politicking. Campos is running for higher office and can't really afford to appear too fringe right now, so Avalos goes in his stead and panders a bit to the anti-cop sentiment. Come election time, Campos reaps the benefits with those voters but the SFPOA can't tie him directly to Avalos's statement and use it as ammo against him (no pun intended).

Posted by Snoozers on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

OBVIUOSLY alleged "supe" has never been in that type of situation, as is totally uneducated in Law Enforcement, and moronic if he thinks those Officers are not already living with fact they "had" to resort to deadly force

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

Very sad, of course.

There are some things that Rebecca had to leave out in order to make this neatly fit into the SFBG narrative.

For example, the journalists who covered the story identified court records from March 14 of a restraining order requested because someone claimed that Nieto had shot him 4 times with the gun.

Another woman said that Nieto had pointed the gun at her dog. Multiple witnesses came forward and said that they felt threatened by Nieto that night, and not because he was eating a burrito. He may have had a legal taser for work but it is hard to understand why anyone at the park that day had to know that.

Again, no reason why the man had to die but certainly enough reason to wait for an investigation before going all off on the police the way that the SFBG and Avalos do.

It is worth reading what real journalists are reporting on this story.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

What's important is that he was a Latino who was eating a burrito, which makes him a criminal and suspect in the minds of these racist cops. Listen to the wise words of brother Avalos on these issues - he grew up in LA with the racist pig LAPD, he knows the scent of pork when he smells it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

Because everyone knows that the majority of crime is committed by whites and asians.

Particularly old white and asian women, who of course never get shot by SFPD.

Gee, I wonder why?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

Most crime is committed by white people. That becomes obvious if you include the really serious stuff -corporate crime, banksters, Wall Street criminals, war crimes, environmental destruction (you know, the stuff that actually hurts and kills thousands). But even if you take that out of the picture and narrowly focus on petty stuff like drug crimes, whites still use and sell more drugs per capita than blacks and Hispanics. But whites don't have to deal with being stopped and profiled.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 11:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 7:53 am

this is such a perfect statement, true from start to finish

the only people denying this are white people who base their opinions on corporate 'news' and corporate incarceration statistics, instead of actual crimes being committed

Posted by wiseoldsnail on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

Feeling marginalized these days?

Posted by Lucky on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 10:11 am

Plus all the other stuff that SFBG are burying.

Crazy guy plus weapon equals deal crazy guy. Who doesn't know that?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

When speaking of Neito, John Avalos said, " I was making sure his life was going in a positive direction".

That's a clue that Alejandro Neito (basically a GOOD person) had times that were not positive.

Reports of acting erratically, threatening, and holding a gun, may have been one of those less positive moments that John Avalos felt a need to guide Neito from.

John Avalos also said 'Bloods been shed, in this case, by people we're supposed to trust' indicating a lack of trust for the police.

The police are responsible for protecting the public. They did not view Neito as the good person (everyone who knew him) knew he was, they viewed him as a threat to the public.

Posted by Bill on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

quit jumping the gun

Posted by guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

like sfpd did?

Posted by wiseoldsnail on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 1:21 pm

there you go again

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

there you go again

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

you're not making any sense. Bye.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

who have money from having it stolen from them

So the left defends crazy insane people with guns threatening people rather than support the cops who protect us from people like that.

Ironic because the left also usually loves well-paid city workers. Except when they are cops, evidently

SFBG are hypocrites.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

Most people I've spoken to sympathize with the police officers who have to deal with the trauma of having had to do this.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

Davey D Cook's HIpHopCorner about this tragic event? I did. It is imperative that we all look at all the possible sources of what went down. Just because it is a police report doesn't make it so. Often when a person is gunned down and killed, others will look to soil that persons reputation in hopes of justifying the fact that mistakes were made and to distract us from the real crime!

Or you could go to Flash Points with Dennis Bernstein. He also spoke with community leaders. We all need to get the bigger picture and if you can't bring yourself to do that, well we all make choices.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:31 am

everyone quit jumping the gun

Posted by guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

Paging Tiny.... Tiny, please report to the comment section

Posted by Snoozers on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

What a biased piece of tripe. What about the restaining orders SFBG?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

I'm having a hard time understanding why a man having a restraining order filed against him justifies him being shot 14 times. Can one of you please explain this?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

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