On Saturday January 7th, 2017, on what would be the start of the rainiest weekend yet of winter in San Francisco, family, friends and supporters of justice for Luis Góngora Pat gathered at the site of his killing on Shotwell Street near 19th Street. Mr. Góngora Pat was killed nine months ago on April 7th, 2016 by Sergeant Nate Seger and Officer Michael Mellone of the San Francisco Police Department. The encounter between the officers and their victim lasted less 22 seconds in which they shot Mr. Góngora Pat with at least five bean bags rounds and seven bullets that hit his back, shoulders, and arms, ending with an execution-style shot to the head. The steep downward trajectory of the head wound described in the Medical Examiner’s report seems to indicate that he was shot after he already lay wounded on the ground.
Luis Poot Pat, a cousin of Mr. Góngora Pat stated “Since his death, we have been demanding justice for Luis. We know from eye witness statements that he did nothing wrong to merit being shot in the back and executed with a bullet to the head. We want the truth to come out! We want the District Attorney Gascón to do his job and prosecute officers who kill! We want these unjust killings to end!” #GasconDoYourJob #GasconPonteLosPantalones
At the time of his death, Mr. Góngora Pat was living unhoused on that block. “We are out here in the rain and cold to honor the memory and life of Luis Góngora Pat on the 9th month anniversary of his killing by SFPD. He was a Mayan indigenous man, a Mexican immigrant laborer, and a family man, who was unhoused at the time of his death. Luis represents everyone who this City is chewing up and spitting out,” stated Adriana Camarena, member of the Honor and Justice for Luis Gongora Pat Coalition.
Flora Campoy, another Coalition member and a victim of police brutality herself, added, “In his honor, we are expressing generosity and solidarity towards homeless residents of the Mission by sharing Mexican King’s Cake (Rosca de Reyes) and hot chocolate traditionally offered on January 6th, and also useful care kits.”
Since 8a.m. that Saturday volunteers gathered, first, at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center to assemble the care kits, and then at 10a.m. began a homeless community feed at Luis’s altar on Shotwell and 19th Street to share Rosca de Reyes and hot chocolate, and start volunteer outreach runs to deliver the food and care kits to neighbors huddled against the cold and rain on nearby streets (Shotwell, 19th, 16th, Folsom, Harrison, Division, etc).
The care kits contained rain ponchos, toothbrushes, combs, socks, lip balm, hats, gloves, snacks, shampoo, condoms, feminine pads and other emergency items often needed by people living on the streets. Camarena explained, “All week long we have received donations both in kind and financial to cover the costs of the community feed and care kits. The show of support has been amazing. People are really connecting to the struggle of our unhoused neighbors.”
Housing, services and resources is what the homeless need, not police violence
Luis Góngora Pat became homeless, alongside his brother José, after they were both illegally evicted from their apartment in the Mission. Their landlord was later successfully sued by the remaining tenants for harassment. (For reference, see UK Guardian article.) Despite the fact that evictions are the leading cause of homelessness in the City, Mayor Ed Lee recently pulled funding for preventive services for people at the brink of homelessness. (See 48Hills article for this reference.)
At the gathering on Saturday, Tiny Gray Garcia of Poor Magazine and Coalition member, who herself was once unhoused explained, “Living on the streets, first with my mom, then with my son, I thought I might never make it. I often wanted to take my own life.” Mission born and raised homeboy, Ray Isaguirre spoke as well, “I am a survivor of the streets on which I lived for 9 years. Whenever I see an event like this I have to come out in support. I can’t tell you how good a clean pair of socks can feel.” He added, “I used to be able to live alone out here. You can’t do that now. You need to have friends; its extremely dangerous to be homeless now.”
Laura Guzman, another member of the Coalition, and Director of Homeless Services of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, supported the event and explained that homeless advocates have expressed urgent need for additional temporary shelter and most importantly, permanent housing, and increased health services and resources from the City to address the homelessness crisis. “The last thing people living on the street need is police violence,” said Guzman.
This past December, a reform to SFPD’s use of force policy was approved by the Board of Supervisors, which makes de-escalation a priority and use of force a last resort option, when officers approach people belonging to vulnerable populations. Coalition members believe that this policy should have been in place years earlier. Camarena pointed out, “The reform makes explicit what was already implicit in the policy: that officers should not use force against homeless people who need specialized services.”
“We had a plan to help put my brother back on his feet, same as I was helped by my cousins”, said José Góngora Pat, brother of Luis, adding, “Often, I come out to the corner to talk to the spirit of my brother and let him know that we have not forgotten him and that we will fight to bring his killers to justice.”
An indigenous Mexican Mayan family fights for justice
The Góngora Pat and Poot Pat families are indigenous Mexican Mayans from the Yucatan Peninsula. According to statistics from Mexico’s INDEMAYA, an agency dedicated to Mayan indigenous issues, there are over 70,000 Yucatecan Mayans in the Bay Area, and 70% of them work in the restaurant sector. (See La Jornada article for reference.) Luis Góngora Pat, himself, was a former employee of San Francisco’s original Mel’s Diner for about a decade.
On the 6th month anniversary of his killing, October 7th, 2016, Mrs. Fidelia del Carmen May Can, widow of Luis, and their grown children, Luis, Angel and Rossana, filed a federal civil lawsuit against SFPD and the City for the wrongful death and civil rights violations of Luis. They are represented by Attorney Adante Pointer of the Law Offices of John Burris. At the gathering today, Luis Poot Pat also announced that the family has their first upcoming court date on January 18th, 2017, at 1:30pm at the Oakland Federal Courthouse (1301 Clay Street) in downtown Oakland.
In November 2016, Tiny and Camarena visited the Góngora family in Teabo to celebrate Day of the Dead with them and deliver a quilt crafted by community members to express solidarity for the family. The next day, Attorney Adante Pointer joined them to meet with his clients and present the case at a press conference to raise awareness of the injustice committed against Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat in the Mexican local and national media, including in Mayan language press!
More information about this event can be found here: https://wordpress.com/posts/justice4luis.org
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/351336975237562/
- The life and death of Luis Góngora: the police killing nobody noticed, The Guardian UK
- Luis Gongora autopsy confirms he was shot on the ground, 48 Hills
- Family of slain homeless man files lawsuit against city, officers, El Tecolote
- Family of homeless man killed by San Francisco cops files federal suit, SFGate
- An International Tragedy: Luis Gongora Pat Press Conference from Yucatan, Poor Magazine