On December 9, 2016, a reporter Michael Bodley for the SFChronicle filed a story titled “SF city attorney defends police who shot homeless man.” Please note that Bodley did not reach out to the family of the victim Luis Góngora Pat, the family’s lawyer Adante Pointer, nor members of the Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat Coalition (www.justice4luis.org) for a statement. This is an example of an SFChronicle reporter acting as a mouthpiece for the City Attorney’s biased version of events and a perfect example of FAKE NEWS that needs to be called out (SFChronicleFakeNewstory).
A federal civil lawsuit was filed against SFPD, including Sergeant Nate Seger and Officer Michael Mellone, the killers of Mr. Gongora, on October 7, 2016. (Read more here.) This late reporting by Bodley should embarrass the Office of the City Attorney who looks like they took a two month nap before responding. In any case, the City Attorney’s statement in the SFChronicleFakeNewstory can be summarized in the following way: “We don’t believe the witnesses, believe us, we want this case dismissed or else we’ll go to trial.”
We respond to this attempt to malign Mr. Góngora Pat and his family’s cause for justice by pointing out the following facts that Bodley, behaving as a City Attorney mouthpiece, conveniently left out in his SFChronicleFakeNewstory:
- The SFChronicleFakeNewsStory quotes the City Attorney saying that they’ll go to trial if the case is not dismissed. This is simple posturing. This is not a threat. Going to trial was always a likely outcome when the family filed a wrongful death and civil rights violation complaint in federal court. Our expectation is that Luis’s family will independently investigate his homicide and go to trial to shed light on the cover up that SFPD and the City Attorney are desperately maintaining. We also expect D.A. Gascon to do his job and file murder charges.
- Bodley’s reporting is fake news because he simply repeats SFPD’s biased version of events without further investigation. He mentions that the police officers say that Mr. Gongora allegedly lunged at them with a knife and that is why they shot him. SFPD officers involved in a shooting WILL ALWAYS argue that they was a serious threat posed by their victim, because under Department General Order 5.01 Use of Force, officers cannot use lethal force unless a threat of serious bodily injury or death exists to themselves or another. Therefore, in EVERY POLICE SHOOTING, SFPD officers WILL ALWAYS SAY that they were THREATENED and frame their case to fit within the language of DGO5.01. SFPD officers hold this biased narrative, because it is the only way to save themselves from prosecution or disciplinary action or in this case too, losing in a civil lawsuit. Regulations across the nation are the same, which is why cover up stories of officer involved shootings include a claim that the victim posed a serious threat. That is not news. That is the common biased narrative based on a legal standard that protects the officers. Reporters need to challenge this narrative with serious reporting on facts, not just selective allegations.
- The homicide of Luis Góngora Pat on April 7, 2016 10:04am was heavily covered by the media in the days after and reporters quoted multiple eye witnesses. By our count, reporters interviewed eight different witnesses to the shooting that contradict the SFPD version of events. (Read more here.) These eight witnesses say that Mr. Góngora was sitting alone on the ground (i.e. not in a threatening position at all, nor threatening anyone), when officers started yelling at him and immediately shot him with 4 to 5 bean bag rounds that overlapped with seven bullets fired by both officers. By contrast, the main witnesses produced by the City Attorney are the SFPD officers involved in the shooting, who cannot be unbiased witnesses to their own conduct.
- The independent autopsy report ordered by the family attorney, as well as the official Medical Examiner’s Report show that Mr. Gongora Pat was shot multiple times in the back by the beanbag rounds and also by several bullets. It seems that all initial shots fired hit him in the back. This coincides with witness statements that state that he was not lunging officers but trying to shield himself by turning his back to officers. At one point, by witness accounts, he gets up to move away but falls to the ground wounded. As shown by the autopsy reports (both independent and official) Mr. Góngora Pat was executed with a fatal shot to his head showing a steep downward trajectory. A few shots to the shoulder and chest show the same trajectory. These steep downward bullet wounds imply that the officers were shooting at him from above as he lay on the ground wounded, helpless, harmless. (Read more here.)
- Bodley’s SFChronicleFakeNewstory includes the video from a security camera across the street, but he fails to mention the most important part about this video. When slowed down, it becomes evident that the officers’ final shots are directed straight towards the ground. Eyewitnesses mention that Mr. Gongora Pat had already fallen struck by bullets previously. The only fatal shot is the downward trajectory head wound, meaning that Mr. Gongora Pat did not have to die at all. In cop-speak, even if the officers had perceived a threat, once on the ground, the “threat” had been “neutralized” and they were NOT allowed to shoot under DGO5.01. It is our belief that these officers should be criminally charged for murder by the District Attorney Gascón. Below is a still image from the video.
- The entire shooting takes place within 22 seconds from the moment officers arrive on scene. There are several police policy breaches in this case, the most notorious of which is that officers escalated the situation (not Mr. Gongora) causing him to be confused and startled through no fault of his own. Mr. Gongora was by all eyewitness accounts peacefully sitting on the ground minding his own business, when shot to death.
- Bodley’s SFChronicleFakeNewstory engages in a typical tactic of character assassination of the victim of an SFPD homicide by mentioning without further context or research that there were traces of meth in Mr. Gongora’s body. Bodley fails to mention that (a) the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report shows that Mr. Góngora’s body and internal organs were in perfect health, and even place the then nearly 46 year old man in his thirties, and (b) the trace amounts of meth found in his system do not amount to toxic levels but to recreational levels at best. (Read more here.)
- Luis Góngora Pat had worked hard over a decade in San Francisco, supporting his wife and three children with remittances sent to Mexico. He was an indigenous Mayan Mexican man from the Yucatan peninsula, who spoke Mayan as a native language, some Spanish and very little English. He could not understand officers’ commands. At the time of his death, Mr. Góngora was camping out on the street after being unlawfully evicted from his apartment a year earlier, but he maintained close ties to his family in San Francisco and Yucatan. Homelessness is an issue that affects all sorts of people in San Francisco. Luis was beloved and his family will fight for justice for him and to uphold his honor against SFPD lies.
Please help us combat fake news about the life and shooting by SFPD of Luis Góngora Pat by questioning reporters and articles that fail to report facts with thoroughness and integrity.