Response to the Report of the Office of the Medical Examiner of San Francisco regarding the killing of Luís Góngora Pat by SFPD on April 7, 2016
Yesterday, the Office of the Medical Examiner of San Francisco released an autopsy report related to the killing by SFPD officers on April 7th, 2016 of Luís Góngora Pat. The report confirms that Luis’s cause of death was homicide caused by multiple (six) gunshot wounds intentionally inflicted by Sergeant Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone. The body showed bean bag bruises and bullet wounds to the back and an execution style shot to the head in a steep downward trajectory (Luis was on the ground). They murdered him.
Unfortunately, as is the practice of the Medical Examiner in homicides perpetrated by SFPD, the report begins by repeating SFPD’s biased account of the actions leading to the killing of Luís Góngora Pat. Tiny Gray-García, a member of the Justice & Honor for Luís Góngora Pat Coalition, stated “This autopsy report is an insult to the family, as it supports the police cover-up of a murder of an innocent indigenous Mayan father, son, brother, uncle and husband who was houseless and therefore unable to protect himself from the ongoing race and class terror perpetrated on poor people of color by police and supported by the system.”
The Medical Examiner’s report also leaves up to public speculation the meaning of trace amounts of drugs found in Luis’s body. According to an official NHTSA report, the amount of drugs in Luis’s system can only be considered recreational. Laura Guzmán a member of the Justice & Honor for Luís Góngora Pat Coalition and expert on homelessness health and policy issues added, “The small amount of drugs detected in his body does not change the fact that he was shot by officers who immediately escalated the violence against Luis and shot him six times within seconds after arriving on the scene.”
Adriana Camarena, another Coalition member pointed out that “The 2016 Report of The Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement found that reports by the Office of the Medical Examiner of San Francisco ‘did not represent truly independent conclusions.’ Again, we see the Medical Examiner framing hard facts within a biased narrative of events supplied by SFPD. This office needs to be investigated for tampering with evidence and reformed alongside SFPD.”
Considering the standing practice of the Medical Examiner of maligning victims of police brutality, the Family and Coalition feel obliged to set the factual record straight and show how the autopsy report supports our claim that Luis was unlawfully and unnecessarily murdered by SFPD officers. In summary and by all eyewitness accounts, the victim never posed any threat to the officers who killed him. Police officers involved acted unlawfully by killing Luis within less than 30 seconds of their arrival. They broke protocols by leaving no time for any reasonable reaction other than panic on behalf of the victim. Officers inflicted several wounds with a bean bag weapon and shot seven bullets, which inflicted six bullet wounds. Only one of those bullets proved fatal; the downward trajectory execution shot to Luis’s head. Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat did not have to die.
Breakdown of eyewitness accounts as supported by Medical Examiner’s Report
- No initial threat posed. By all witness accounts, Luis was sitting on the ground with his back against the wall when officers approached from his right on the sidewalk. SFPD has confirmed that the officers shot four bean bag rounds and seven bullets at Luis. There is security camera footage showing the actions of the officers.
Autopsy report supports bean bag rounds to back. The autopsy report confirms that Luis was injured by bean bag rounds to the back. The injuries to his back means that he was not facing or threatening officers in any manner, but instead had turned away to shield himself. This is natural human reaction. Specifically, his body shows heavy bruising to the right side of his back consistent with the bean bag rounds we see Officer Michael Mellone discharging on the security camera footage, as he approaches from Luis’s right side.
- No subsequent threat posed. By eyewitness accounts, Luis was forced to get up in an attempt to move away from the pain being inflicted by the bean bags. He moved towards the street in front of him, not the officers to his side. Luis is said to have been shielding himself with his arms. Upon rising, both officers opened fired at him.
Autopsy report supports bullet shots to back. The autopsy report shows that he was hit twice in the right forearm and once in the right upper back. These shots are consistent with the direction of the initial bean bag rounds. We think it is plausible that the shot to the back made him fall to the ground. (3 independent gunshot wounds)
- No subsequent threat posed as Luis is executed on the ground. By eyewitness accounts, Luis fell to the ground now facing towards the officers. On the ground, the officers continued to shoot at him, even though he posed absolutely no threat. Officers are independently responsible for every bullet fired. They did not have to keep shooting at a wounded, unarmed man.
Autopsy report proves steep downward trajectory execution shot to head: Luis was executed with a shot to the left side of the head that coursed through his brain from a right to left direction and steep downward trajectory. His body also shows a shot to the right lower chest (with a right to left and downward trajectory) and shot to his left upper arm. This means that Officer Michael Mellone, who is shown in the available security footage video to be shooting closest to Luis, -and from Luis’s right side, is directly responsible for the execution shot. This fatal head wound was the only mortal wound. (3 independent gunshot wounds)
Luís Góngora Pat was unlawfully killed. He did not have to die. In fact, he did not die immediately. As the autopsy report indicates, he was taken to SFGH into an operation room and later into an intensive care unit, where he died one hour and forty minutes later. His suffering after the shooting increases the suffering of his family and community.
The fatal shooting of Luís Góngora Pat by Sergeant Steger and Officer Mellone stands in stark contrast to the recent Civic Center stand-off on Saturday September 24th between officers and a Caucasian man who was in a mental health crisis and threatening to inflict harm with a semi-automatic firearm. Police officers negotiated with this man for six hours until he was taken into custody alive. We believe that Luís Góngora Pat died not only because of six needless bullets shot into his body, but also because of the racial bias of SFPD officers. As evidenced in the Blue Ribbon Panel report and SFPD’s own data released this August there are extreme racial disparities in SFPD arrests and use of force. The family of Luis and the Coalition demand that the District Attorney George Gascón investigate and criminally charge Sergeant Nate Steger and Officer Michael Melone for murder.
The Medical Examiner did not have the courtesy of forewarning the family, who were ambushed by this news yesterday in the media. The release of this biased and harmful Report by the Medical Examiner causes great grief to his family in San Francisco and Yucatán. His cousin Luis Poot Pat comments “It is unjust that my cousin was killed so cruelly by SFPD. The police should be here to help, not to destroy. My cousin spoke Mayan. He could not understand the commands given by the officers, but the greatest concern is that he was killed within less than thirty seconds.” Luis’s other cousin, Carlos Poot Pat, stated “The police is destroying families, when they should be helping to save lives. This is a great injustice. Luis was part of a tight family, despite the border separating him from his wife and children.” José —Luis’s brother—, added, “He was my companion and they have taken him away from me. My brother needed shelter, food, and medical care. I did what I could within my means to help him. Instead of receiving assistance from the City, he was executed by the police.” The family in Yucatán has been informed of this latest development, but did not want to comment at this time.
This response was drafted by the family of Luís Góngora Pat with the Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat Coalition.
 Normal concentrations in recreational use are 0.01 to 2.5 mg/L (median 0.6 mg/L). Levels over 2.5 mg/L are considered toxic. Peak blood methamphetamine concentrations occur shortly after injection, a few minutes after smoking, and around 3 hours after oral dosing. Luis’s system showed a 1.01 mg/L of methamphetamine. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/methamphetamine.htm
 Report of The Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement (July 2016), “Community members expressed concern about autopsy reports of OIS victims issued by the city medical examiner’s office, claiming that—in the Alex Nieto case, for example—the autopsy reports too often echoed events as framed in the related SFPD incident report and did not represent truly independent conclusions.” pg. 19. www.SFBlueRibbonPanel.com
More information on witness accounts can be found under “Luis’s Story”: https://justice4luis.org/luiss-story/
Video of the incident can be found here: https://justice4luis.org/2016/06/25/video-30-seconds-of-lawless-and-murderous-sfpd/
Please note that on October 7th 2016, Luis’s six month anniversary of being killed by SFPD officers, we will hold a press conference addressing these and other issues.
News coverage of Medical Examiner’s Report
- Luis Gongora autopsy confirms he was shot on the ground, 48Hills
- Autopsy Released for Homeless Man Killed by Police, Mission Local
- Man killed by police in Mission District shot six times, KRON 4
- Autopsy Reveals Homeless Man Killed By SFPD Was Shot 6 Times, CBS
- Autopsy For Homeless Man Killed in S.F. Police Shooting Released, KQED
- Autopsy For Luis Gongora Reveals He Was Shot Six Times, Had Meth In His System, SFists