Attorneys for the Góngora family presented video and photographic evidence that they say shows that police officers shot Góngora from above, while he was either sitting down or lying prone. Photographs from a private autopsy show that Góngora was shot in the top of his head, as well as in the back, both arms, and the abdomen.
“The officer can be seen shooting down at the wounded man, with a handgun in one hand and a shotgun in the other, in a scene reminiscent of a gangster movie,” the claim states. The claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
The lawyers played an enlarged, slow-motion version of surveillance video, previously released by the San Francisco Chronicle, that provides a partial view of the shooting. One of the officers can be seen firing three rounds.
“If you slow down this clip, you will witness that the officer who initially had the shotgun is pointing downward,” said Adante Pointer, one of the attorneys. “Mr Góngora was already down on the ground when this officer decided to pump three shots into his body.”
Adante Pointer, attorney with John Burris, presented some of the evidence collected by the law firm including photographs from independent autopsy and video footage of the Gongora playing with a basketball sometime before the shooting “When the officers arrived on the Shotwell street, they found Luis sitting, he was sitting on the ground with his back against the wall in kind of like a crouched position. In a non-threatening and non-menacing way just minding his own business,” Pointer said.
Photographs of the right side of Gongora’s body show four bruises caused by being hit by bean bags and in total five bullet wounds. Of the bullet wounds, there is only one lethal wound, gunshot to the left temple in a steep downward trajectory. The other wounds are to arms and shoulder and a graze wound to the abdomen.
SFPD officers’ statement alleges that Gongora lunged at them with a knife and refused to put the knife down when asked. Pointer and his colleagues seek to counter these claims “If you slow down the clip (CCTV footage of the shooting) as we did and you focus on when the officers come back in the frame you would notice that the officer who initially had the shotgun transitioned to his 40 caliber gun is pointing downward and there are actually three shots that this video shows of him aiming and pointing his gun downwards which indicates and proves to us that Mr. Gongora was actually down on the ground when this officer decided to pump three more bullets into his body,” Pointer explained as community leader and activist Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia gasped and broke down. “This is outrageous and a proof of excessive use of force,” Pointer continued, the attorneys used the video along with multiple witness statements and cross referenced it with independent autopsy findings to make their argument.
“You can see the third officer doesn’t even pull his weapon out,” Pointer said reinforcing that if the police version of Gongora lunging was correct, the third officer would have pulled out his weapon instead he can be seen casually strolling along as his colleagues shout commands and begin shooting.
Attorneys for the family say Gongora Pat was shot in the head and back from above, claiming officers fired at him while he was on the ground.
“He’s shot, shot, shot, shot, shot — side, back, top of the head,” said John Burris, a civil rights attorney based in Oakland who has represented several police shooting victims. “This should not have happened.”
Showing graphic images taken of Gongora-Pat’s body during an independent autopsy, Burris and his colleagues said that wounds to the forehead clearly indicate he was shot from above while lying or sitting on the ground.
“As you can see the trajectory goes down the top of his head and out the back of his head, indicating that he was below the officer, that the officer was above him and aimed down at the top of his head,” said Melissa Nold, a lawyer with John L. Burris Law Offices.
“You can have poor tactics and create a circumstance where you use deadly force. But those tactics had led to the shooting and that’s fundamentally wrong,” said Burris.
In less than 30 seconds the involved SFPD officers violated their training and common sense by provoking a needless confrontation and ignoring the alternatives to deescalate the situation,” writes Burris in a press release announcing the filing of a Claim, the first step in a civil suit, against the city. “Tragically, as a result of their recklessness, Mr. Góngora lost his life.”
Police say that on April 7 officers went to a homeless encampment on Shotwell Street near 19th after being alerted by the Homeless Outreach Team that there was a person in the area wife a knife. Upon arrival, police allege Gongora waved a kitchen knife around and charged them — despite repeated verbal demands that he drop the weapon.
This version of events has been disputed by at least eight witnesses, all of who say Gongora, 45, posed no threat to officers and did not charge. Partial video of the shooting emerged showing officers firing on Gongora within 30 seconds of exciting their squad cars.
“[SFPD] officers fired a total of 7 bullets and at least 4 shotgun propelled bean bags at Mr. Góngora,” writes Burris. “Many of the gun shots and bean bag rounds struck Mr. Góngora on his right flank indicating Góngora was not standing erect but was either falling down or lying prone when the Officers used deadly force against him. Witness accounts also suggest Mr. Góngora no longer possessed the knife after the first bean bag round struck him in his rear flank.””
Gongora died at a homeless encampment in the Mission District, where he had allegedly lunged at officers while wielding a kitchen knife. His family’s attorneys say that surveillance footage of the incident, first obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, show one of the police officers who fired a fatal shot aiming a shotgun towards the ground.
“They shot him to pieces,” attorney Adante Pointer told the Guardian. “It’s ridiculous.”
Gongora lived in one of the Mission District’s many tents. He kept in contact with his family, who lived in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, some of whom were on hand for a press conference in San Francisco on Friday.
Police responded to the camp where Gongora lived after homeless outreach workers called 911 to report a man with a knife.
According to police, Gongora died after he lunged at officers, who had fired beanbag rounds at him in an attempt to stun or disable him. Eyewitnesses have disputed the account. The encounter took about 30 seconds, as the Chronicle first reported.
… civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the family, cited other witnesses who saw Góngora sitting down with his back against a wall when officers arrived and said he did not use the knife in an aggressive way and dropped it after the officers initially shot him with a beanbag round. Three witnesses also told The Chronicle that Góngora did not appear to threaten the officers.
Surveillance footage of the encounter does not show Góngora in the frame, but officers can be heard shouting at him to “get on the ground!” and, seconds later, “put that down!” before shooting him.
At a news conference to announce the claim, attorneys for the family displayed photos from an independent autopsy, which concluded that a bullet wound to Góngora’s head was the shot that killed him. The trajectory of the bullet came from above, they said, indicating that he was lying on the ground at the time.
As they announced the filing of a claim against the city and county of San Francisco for excessive force and wrongful death, lawyers for his family alleged at a press conference, Luis Góngora was killed by a shot to the head from above. Góngora is the homeless man shot by San Francisco police on April 7th. Attorneys for the Góngora family presented video and photographic evidence that they say shows that police officers shot Góngora from above.