SFPD spokespeople said in the days after his killing that Luis Góngora Pat lunged at Ofc. Michael Mellone and Sgt. Nate Steger with a knife, which is why they feared for their lives and shot him dead on April 7, 2016. However, witness testimony gathered by the media, in the hours and days after his killing, contradicts the police narrative of the incident.
Justice for Luis Góngora Pat has counted EIGHT eye witness accounts in the media that contradict the narrative that SFPD holds about Luis’s shooting. According to witnesses, Luis was simply sitting on the ground when attacked by officers. He was crouching away from them and stood only momentarily after the shooting started. He immediately fell wounded to the ground again. Luis gave officers no reason to use force, let alone lethal use of force as allowed under the law.
A partial video shows that less than 30 seconds transpired from the time the officers exited their vehicle and finished unloading their weapons. Their actions were in blatant violation of all SFPD time and distance and deescalation protocols. The video can be found here.
Furthermore, the report by the Medical Examiner supports the alternative narrative that Luis was not only sitting on the ground, but shot to the back with the initial bean bag rounds and bullets, before being executed with a shot to the head. The Medical Examiner’s report can be found here.
WE DEMAND THAT D.A. GASCÓN PRESS CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST THE KILLERS OF LUIS GÓNGORA PAT!
Witnesses, so far…
(1) S Smith Patrick
Source: Nextdoor and Facebook post by witness: “Friends – I witnessed the fatal shooting of a homeless man by police yesterday across the street from my home. The posting I released on a neighborhood watch group site follows.
Homeless man shot by police on Shotwell Street
Smith Patrick from Central Mission
Police just shot and killed a homeless man on Shotwell between 18 and 19. I saw the whole thing.
If you’ve walked down Shotwell, you would have recognized the victim – a Spanish speaker who kicked a ball again the buildings from early morning to late night. He’s never caused us or other residents in our building harm. Interacting with him, one could tell he was mentally challenged.
I heard ‘get on the ground’ and ran to the window. Across the street I could see the victim cowering on the ground while two police officers, one with a rifle pointed at him, approached from at least 30 feet away. To be clear, the victim was crouching on the ground, head down, visibly shaking. There was no visibly aggressive behavior at that time.
I am unsure if the victim rose or if the rifle that shot him propelled his body, but he was standing for a moment while the rifle shot several times with what I learned to be bean bags, and the other officer drew a pistol and shot. Blood immediately started spurting but they continued to shoot. It appeared that several shots did hit him because blood was spurting in different directions.
The victim was then on the ground in a pool of blood.
Police and fire arrived within moments. They went through the motions of trying to revive him medically, but it was clear that he wouldn’t live. So much blood.
This is incredibly disturbing and I’d like to pursue filing a report so that this case can be considered for future policy on this topic. If anyone knows any organizations that focus on this, please let me know.”
S Smith Patrick also talked to The Guardian:
“Patrick said that she was sitting at one of four windows in her apartment when she heard someone shout, “Get on the ground.” She ran to the next window and saw Gongora.
“He was on the ground, crouched with his head between his knees,” she said.
She saw two police officers standing about 20 or 30 feet from Gongora, one carrying what looked like a rifle and the other with his hand at his belt. She heard two shots fired from the rifle – a less-lethal weapon that fires beanbag pellets – and then “live ammunition” being fired concurrently with additional beanbag rounds.
Patrick said she could differentiate the different types of ammunition because of her experience working as a film-maker in the West Bank.
“He didn’t get up until they were shooting,” she said. “I would by no stretch of the imagination say that he was charging them. His body was recoiling from bullets.”
Patrick said that the police officers were moving “parallel” to the street, toward Gongora, but that once he stood up, he was moving “perpendicular” – as if to cross the street – until he fell. “It was after he was shot several times that the knife kind of fell from his body. I don’t know if it came from his hand or his pocket, but he was never like this to somebody,” Smith said, miming holding a knife up as if to threaten someone.
She added: “It’s like they came out shooting. It’s complete bullshit what’s happening. There’s no way that somebody deserved to lose their life.”
Patrick’s account of the shooting fills in key details that are missing from the surveillance video, which does not show the police officers while they were shooting or any view of Gongora.”
(2) Anonymous witness quoted by The Guardian
Source: The Guardian – “[Patricks account…] also corresponds with the account of another neighbor who said that he saw the entire incident from his kitchen window, also across the street.
“I watched the whole thing. It was absolutely fucking terrible,” said the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of police retaliation. “I was at the kitchen window and it all started. They shot him with the bean bag, and he turned to block the shots and gestured, like, ‘What the fuck?’ And that’s when they shot him.”
The neighbor added: “He was not really threatening. He wasn’t running at them with a knife or anything like that. They just jumped right out and 20 seconds later he was dead.””
(3) John Visor (RIP) and (4) Stephanie Grant
Source: KQED – “John Visor and Stephanie Grant, who live in a tent on Shotwell Street, said they saw the shooting, KQED’s Alex Emslie reports. Visor identified the man as “Jose” and said he had known him for about a year.
“He didn’t charge at no officers,” Visor said. “He was going in circles because he wasn’t understanding what they were saying.”
Grant said the man was always friendly and she’d never seen him threaten anyone with a knife that he carried for protection while collecting bottles and cans.
“He doesn’t understand English,” she said, adding the incident played out in less than a few minutes. “It shouldn’t have happened that way at all.”
Visor said his friend’s knife was stuck, blade down, in the man’s belt.
“The knife was up on his hip the whole time,” Visor said. “When the last shot hit him, that’s when he fell, and that’s when the knife fell out and hit the ground.””
A similar statement was given to Mission Local.
(5) Rosalyn Barnett
Source: The Guardian “Barnett agreed that Gongora was sitting on the ground when police first approached, and said that the knife was sitting on the ground beside him.
“He was already sitting on the ground. He wasn’t touching the knife,” she said. “They start launching the beanbags. He’s sitting down the whole time. They didn’t tell him to put his hands on his head, behind his back, none of that.”
Barnett said that after Gongora was hit with beanbags, he stood up and tried to run away.
“He was running away. He wasn’t running toward them,” she said. “He wasn’t that kind of person.””
(6) Christine Pepin
Source: The Guardian – “He was sitting on the ground, his back against the wall,” Pepin said about Gongora. “He seemed to be holding something in his left hand, but I didn’t see a knife. He didn’t seem aggressive. He seemed kind of lost and confused.
“His head was against the building, sitting down, and his knees were bent, like in a relaxed manner,” she added.
Pepin said that the officers were approximately seven to 10 meters from Gongora, and that no one else was close to him: “He was pretty much isolated. He was alone.”
She said she then saw an officer aim a “big black and orange” gun at Gongora, and heard the officer tell Gongora to stay on the ground.
“I was shocked by this because it seemed to me that the person was harmless,” Pepin said. “The officers started shooting, and I thought, ‘This must not be real ammunition,’ I thought, ‘because why would they do that?’”
Pepin started to run away, and her view was blocked by a parked car, so she did not see what happened next.
Like S Smith Patrick, another witness who has challenged the police narrative of the shooting, Pepin said that she had assumed Gongora had threatened the police officers in a separate incident. After watching the surveillance video, however, she said she realized that she had witnessed the beginning of the encounter.
“It didn’t seem that he was posing a threat to anyone. He looked lost. He didn’t look aggressive,” she said. “I don’t see how a man, even with a knife in his hands – which I didn’t see – how he could pose a threat to three officers with fully loaded weapons. That is really what shocked me.”
(7) Carlos Guevara
Source: Mission Local – “A homeless man living in an encampment near where Luis Gongora was shot and killed by San Francisco police officers last week said Thursday that he witnessed the incident from a distance and said that he did not see Gongora lunge at the officers who shot him.
He did say that that Gongora used his knife on a tree, possibly in anger at an impending sweep of the encampment before officers arrived. […]
Carlos Guevara said he was “at least” twenty feet away from the scene of the shooting when he witnessed the fatal confrontation a week prior. Guevera lives in an encampment on 19th Street, around the corner from the Shotwell Street encampment where Gongora lived.”
(8) Ellen (Lastname unknown)
Source: Mission Local – “But the new witness, a local resident named Ellen, who did not want to give her last name and lives a block away from the Shotwell Street shooting site, offered a different version. She said she was walking home from Mission Cliffs gym when she saw a police car parked on the corner of 19th and Shotwell.
Her statements follow those made by two friends of Gongora’s, a neighbor who posted an account online, and an anonymous source who spoke with the Chronicle. All of them stated that Gongora did not lunge at the officers.
Ellen said her view of the shooting was partially obstructed by the car, but that she “never saw the guy lunge at the cops.” Nonetheless, she said, as she rounded the corner she heard officers say “Drop it” twice to a man slouched against a wall.
“I saw the victim, who was sitting on the ground, back against the building, legs stretched out in front of him, hands up,” she said. “He was holding something, it looked like garbage, possibly mylar. It just looked like trash.”
“If anything I saw him roll away from the pellet they were shooting at him,” she said. “I never saw him get on his feet.”
Ellen said one officer with the bean-bag gun — which looked like a “toy rifle” with “neon detailing” — was in front of a line of other officers and that he was telling the man to “Drop it.”
After the officer fired “four to six” bean-bag rounds, the other officers took out their pistols and fired a similar number of bullets, she said. The video provided to the Chronicle indicates there were seven gunshots.
Ellen said her mind went blank when she saw “the guy facedown on the sidewalk” and that she walked home immediately. She waited there before going back to the scene to give a statement to police.”