On December 6, 2017, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, St. Anthony’s Foundation and St Mary’s Center will be hosting a Bay Area Community Forum to give the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in the US a report on the state of poverty in the Bay Area and beyond; how civil rights protections are violated and neglected due to extreme poverty, and most important; how a diversity of groups have come together to fight back!
José Góngora Pat, brother of Luis Góngora Pat, and Carlos Poot Pat, cousin of the deceased, will address the UN Special Rapporteur after the programmed panel, and submitted for his consideration the following report:
The Extrajudicial Killing of Luis Góngora Pat: An Incident of Extreme Police Brutality Against an Extremely Poor Person of Color in San Francisco
On April 7, 2016, at 10:04:14a.m. two San Francisco police officers rushed at a homeless man sitting on Shotwell Street and shot him to death, all in less than 30 seconds from the moment of their arrival. The victim was Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat.
Who was Luis?
Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat was a Mayan Mexican migrant worker from Teabo, Yucatan. He was 45 years old at the time of his death. Luis is survived by his spouse, Fidelia del Carmen May Can, his three grown children, his elderly parents and siblings who remain in Teabo. Luis is also survived by his brothers Jose and extended family who live in San Francisco. His family called him Luis or by his nickname Sapo (Toad); “Much” in Mayan.
A life of hardship and love of family
In 2002, Luis left the fields of Teabo to find work in San Francisco to support his wife and children. For several years, he worked at Mel’s Diner as a dishwasher and prep cook, like so many other Mayans working in the restaurant industry in San Francisco.
In 2013, he and his brother Jose were pushed out from their Mission District apartment under questionable circumstances. Other tenants later sued the building landlord and settled a case of unlawful harassment. The expulsion from their steady home of eight years came at a peak rise in inequality and loss of cheap housing in San Francisco.
Luis and his brother Jose were forced to live on the street, unable to find housing. Their lack of a stable home impeded them from keeping steady employment. Even so, for at least a year while living on the street, Luis continued to send remittances back to his family, as their breadwinner.
A cousin, Luis Poot Pat, was able to take in Jose into his family home, and within their means, they all helped Luis who remained unhoused a few blocks away. At the time of his killing by police, Luis was living in the homeless encampment on Shotwell Street between 18th and 19th Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco.
His family in Yucatan and in San Francisco bear the grief, trauma, economic hardship, and political struggle in exercising their basic human rights against the structural injustice that notoriously impedes accountability for police shootings in the US, more so when the victim is a poor person of color.
The shooting, what we know.
On the morning of April 7, 2016, a person called 311 with a report of a crying baby in the encampment on Shotwell Street. The SF Homeless Outreach Team deployed to the encampment, but found no baby.
Around 10 a.m., a member of the SFHOT Team saw a man with a knife at the encampment, and called 911 to report that there was a man with a knife.
At 10:04:14a.m., Sergeant Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone arrived to the encampment in their patrol car searching for a man with a knife.
Security camera footage shows that prior to their arrival Luis Góngora Pat had been playing with a ball. When the officers arrived, Luis was by then, sitting on the ground with his back against a metal garage gate.
Upon seeing Luis, the officers stopped and immediately exited their vehicle, drew weapons, rushed Luis who was sitting on the ground, yelled commands in English that were unintelligible to him, and fired five bean bag rounds, followed by seven bullets that fatally wounded him.
Less than thirty seconds transpired between the moment that officers exited their vehicle and fired the last bullet. Their approach violated all “time and distance” protocols of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and all of Luis’s human rights.
Luis Góngora Pat agonized for nearly 3 hours before dying at the hospital, according to his autopsy report. His family never saw him, nor was given the right to identify his body.
By all witness accounts, Luis was sitting on the ground minding his own business when officers brutally engaged him. He posed no threat to the officers, nor anyone else.
The official autopsy report reveals bean bag bruises and bullet wounds to his back, indicating that he was facing away from officers for most of the encounter. Eye witnesses indicate that he stood in fright, partially propelled by the impact of the bean bag rounds, but was immediately shot down again, falling towards the officers. This fact has been used by officers to claim that Luis lunged at them with a knife. Eye witnesses that spoke to the media and to community members, including homeless witnesses, deny that Luis threatened officers in any way.
The only fatal wound to Luis was caused by an execution shot to his head with a steep downward trajectory, indicating he was killed after he fell to the ground. Surveillance camera footage captures the officers shooting and shows them pointing their weapons towards the ground while shooting the final rounds.
See Annex A. Our information is drawn from a report by the SFPD at a town hall meeting after the shooting; a partial video of the shooting from a security camera; several eye witness accounts, and the Office of the Medical Examiners’ autopsy report.
We believe this was a senseless and unjust extrajudicial killing of an innocent Mayan man perpetrated by SFPD officers, in violation of Luis’s human rights.
We believe that SFPD acted with such extreme violence towards him, biased by his race as a Mayan Mexican man and his condition of extreme poverty as a homeless resident of the City.
Context of police brutality in San Francisco
Unfortunately, police brutality against poor people of color in this City is common. From 2014 to 2016, there were eleven killings by police in San Francisco, nine of the victims were people of color, including the salient cases of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Góngora Pat, and Jessica Williams. All of them were poor to extremely poor residents of this City.
The crisis of extrajudicial killings in San Francisco led to the ouster of Chief of Police Greg Suhr, and renewed promises of reform by Mayor Edwin Lee. But even now, under the new Chief William Scott, during 2017 there have been three more people killed by San Francisco police officers. The latest killing happened just last Friday Dec. 1st, 2017. Use of force incidents in the Mission have also gone up; a neighborhood in which the police killings of three Latino men took place: Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Luis Góngora Pat.
Nonetheless, the District Attorney has declined or failed to file charges against officers involved in an extrajudicial killing, in any of the cases mentioned above, or even from prior years.
Demands and requests
We demand justice for Luis and his family, and an end to police impunity in the City of San Francisco.
We request that the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, individually and jointly:
- Raise awareness of the unlawful criminalization and brutalization by police of poor people of color in the City of San Francisco,
- Make strong recommendations to the responsible federal and state authorities to address
- the lack of accountability for the extrajudicial killing of Luis, and ongoing impunity for all police killings of poor people of color, and
- the utter lack of respect for the human rights of the poor and extremely poor in this City, many who are also people of color.
- Consider issuing a joint statement that integrates the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in the US, and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission Report regarding its December 7th, 2017 on “Reports on Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings in the US” as part of their 166th Extraordinary Session.
We are “Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat”
We are “Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat”, a grassroots group formed by the family of Luis Góngora Pat, and community members who accompany the family. Please visit our website at www.justice4luis.org or write to email@example.com.
Dios bo’otik! ¡Muchas gracias! Thank you!
Diagram of wounds based on the Office of the Medical Examiner’s Report. A copy of the report can be accessed here: https://justice4luisdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/2016-0349-gongora.pdf
Security camera video footage recovered from a building across from the site of the incident
There is a partial video of the shooting. We say “partial”, because Luis was out of the range of the camera angle.
A slowed down version of the video can be viewed on our website here: https://justice4luis.org/2016/06/25/video-30-seconds-of-lawless-and-murderous-sfpd
The original video clip posted by SF Chronicle can be viewed here in real time: http://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Video-shows-San-Francisco-police-shooting-7237146.php
Eyewitness accounts collected from the media, as well as the police version told at the Town Hall meeting following his death, can be found in the section Luis’s Story at https://justice4luis.org/luiss-story/ or please write to firstname.lastname@example.org should you wish any specific additional information.
Media Articles of Interest
- The life and death of Luis Góngora: the police killing nobody noticed, The Guardian UK
- Family of slain homeless man files lawsuit against city, officers, El Tecolote
- Luis Gongora autopsy confirms he was shot on the ground, 48 Hills
- Civil Suit Against Police Will Go to Trial in Fall 2018, 48 Hills
- Threading the life of a Mayan, El Tecolote
- Police shooting tore a hole in SF’s Mayan community, SFChronicle, David Talbot
In Spanish and Mayan,
- Contra la Policía de San Francisco: Asesinato de migrante, tragedia internacional (Against the Police of San Francisco: Assassination of migrant, international tragedy), La Jornada Maya, Mexico
- Tu yo’olal Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat, Kíinsa’abik táanxelil lu’ume’, yaj óolal ti’ yóok’ol kaab, La Jornada Maya