Below is a description of the outcomes of (1) the criminal investigation into the homicide of Luis Góngora Pat carried out by the San Francisco District Attorney, (2) the family’s civil case against Luis’s killers, and (3) the administrative misconduct investigation of the police officers who killed Luis Góngora Pat.
We recommend our page In the News! for a collection of articles related to these key moments.
Police misconduct investigation
(8.19.2019) SFPD Internal Affairs Department recommends disciplining Luis’s killers
Because of SFPD’s lack of public transparency, we learned until June of 2020, that on August 19, 2019 SFPD’s Internal Affairs Department recommended a 10-day suspension for Michael Mellone for improperly firing a bean-bag gun at Luis-Gongora Pat.
This would have been a historic suspension in the case of lethal use of force by an SFPD officer, but it was still less of a disciplinary action than the 45-day suspension recommended by the DPA. Even worse, Internal Affairs concerted the handing down of this decision with Michael Mellone, who resigned a day earlier on August 18, and thereby avoided the execution of the suspension. Days later on August 24, Michael Mellone was working with Antioch Police Department.
We have since learned that Mellone has worked in the police departments of Oakland, Richmond, Antioch and San Francisco, moving back and forth between these, and with prior complaints of use of force.
We also learned that Steger had previously retired before the DPA’s decision. Both killers exited SFPD before the disciplinary decisions were executed.
(6.14.2019) DPA finds officers at fault in slaying of Luis Góngora Pat and recommends suspension
The Department of Police Accountability of San Francisco investigates police misconduct incidents and makes recommendations to the Chief of Police and San Francisco’s Police Commission on disciplining officers. On June 14, 2019, the DPA recommended that SFPD Officer Michael Mellone and Sgt. Nathaniel Steger be suspended for “neglect of duty” in the April 7, 2016, slaying of Luís Góngora Pat.
The DPA had found that Mellone rushed in and escalated a calm situation, and violated almost every one of the department’s rules for using a shotgun with beanbag rounds, called an “extended-range impact weapon,” or ERIW. He didn’t make a plan with Steger, didn’t call for an ambulance, didn’t announce that he was about to fire the weapon, and shot all four beanbag rounds at the same area in an attempt to ” ‘shoot’ the knife out of Góngora’s hand, contrary to the training he received,” stated the DPA’s investigation.
“It was Mellone’s unilateral decision to escalate the force used and close the distance to Góngora that robbed the officers of the ability to create time and distance under the circumstances,” the oversight investigation found, recommending a 45-day suspension. The DPA also recommended a 30-day suspension for Steger.
Luis Poot Pat, cousin of the deceased, spoke at the following Police Commission to demand that his murderers not only be fired, but disciplined.
(5.24.18) D.A. Gascón Declines to Press Charges Against Cops Who Killed Luis Góngora Pat and Mario Woods
(2.28.18) The family of Luis Góngora Pat met for the first time with District Attorney George Gascón on February 28, 2018. This was nearly two years after Luis was killed, and it was the first time the D.A. even offered to meet with them. In the meeting, the family was promised a decision in 6-8 weeks.
(4.11.18) After 2 years without justice, the family of Luis Góngora Pat started a 15-day countdown to keep Gascón to his self-imposed charging decision deadline, demanding he “Charge the Killer Cops or Resign!” Justice for Luis kept office hours outside 850 Bryant St. which housed the Offices of the District Attorney.
Earlier in the month, three years since the murder of Luis Góngora Pat, to honor and commemorate Luis’s life and had opened the Mayan War Room at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. For the duration of the campaign calling Gascón to charge Luis’s killers, Justice for Luis kept office hours at the MCCLA. We would rally outside the D.A.’s office in the morning and return to the MCCLA in the afternoon.
The D.A. denied having made a commitment to the family to make a decision in that time period, but we had him on tape, so we shared his lie to the media. When the 15-day ultimatum was over, the family held a 24 hour vigil for the 24 lives stolen by police since D.A. Gascón had taken office and never once pressed charges.
(5.24.18) A month later, in late May, D.A. Gascón called a press conference where he declined to press charges against the cops who killed Luis Góngora Pat and Mario Woods. Gascón announced this decision right before the Memorial Day weekend which is also the weekend of Carnaval in the Mission District, thinking it would wash over.
(5.29.18) The families and coalitions supporting justice for Luis Góngora Pat and Mario Woods joined forces to stage a mass protest for the cowardly decision of District Attorney George Gascón.
(1/11/2019) Luis’s family reaches a $140,000 settlement with the City
After depositions were provided, the City offered the family a $140,000 settlement in a mandated settlement conference. This was not an easy decision for the family, and many factors were involved. Luis had been killed nearly three years back, the civil case was still unresolved and still months ahead. Further potential delays were possible and its outcome was unknowable. After going through the wringer of a deposition process, the family also had to consider the additional emotional toll and financial costs to be incurred. Their hearts were broken for the mistreatment and murder of Luis, and by the knowledge that the judicial system hardly ever provides justice in these cases.
(1/1/2019) Luis’s family flies into the US from the Yucatán on parole to deliver depositions to the City
The judge ordered Luis’s widow, Doña Carmen May Can, and their children—Luis Jr., Ángel and Rosana—to appear in San Francisco to deliver depositions to the City Attorney, as evidence for the Civil Trial. They made a harrowing trip to the Calexico Border crossing to be granted parole to enter the US, and from there flew to San Francisco. Luis’s widow and children had never flown before or even left their state, but it gave them an idea of what their husband’s and father’s journey to enter the US must have been like. To them he was a Mayan Warrior. He provided for them through his hard work.
This was also a bittersweet moment of reuniting Luis’s family in Teabo, Yucatán with his family in San Francisco, namely José Góngora Pat, Luis’s brother, and their cousins. They had not seen each other in over two decades.
Jury Trial Date delayed again to May 2, 2019
We don’t even recall when this was determined, but sometime in 2018, the jury trial date was delayed again due to some convoluted issues around changes in judges, a sick City Attorney and who knows what else.
(3/13/2017) Jury Trial Date Set for October 22nd, 2018
The first hearing in the case of Family of Luis Góngora Pat v. SFPD took place today at 1:30pm, Courtroom 2, Floor 17th of the Federal Courthouse Building in San Francisco. The objective was to set key dates that would move the case forward and key agreements related to motions and the discovery process. The family attorneys expect a fight along the way to gain access to witnesses, videos, experts, technical evidence, etc. Highlights:
- Federal Civil Jury Trial date: October 22nd, 2018! (We don’t like the wait, but we like the date: National Anti-Police Brutality Day of protest.)
- Please note: Judge Henderson who presided today is retiring August 2017. His pending cases will be reassigned then at random by an assigned committee. Depending on the new assigned judge’s calendar, the dates might shift.
- Pre-trial conference: October 15th, 2018
- Mandatory settlement conference: no less than 5 days prior to pre-trial conference date
- Meet & confer between parties about trial: Sept. 14th, 2018
- Expert depositions and testimonies: Plaintiff 35 days before pre-trial conference. Defendant 45 days before pre-trial conference.
- All related motions filed by August 27th, 2018
- All related hearings filed by August 23rd, 2018
- All discovery concluded, except expert depositions and testimonies: July 9th, 2018
- Parties should file an agreed upon Protective Order: March 24th, 2017. The protective order will establish which information can be public and which must remain confidential. Police officers claim many protections under POBAR so the lawyers will have to fight to make evidence publicly available.
(3/13/2017) Pack the Court! 1st hearing in federal civil case of Góngora family v SFPD
Please join us March 13th, 1:30pm, Federal Building, Courtroom 12, 19th Floor. (Note: Last minute switch of court, Courtroom 2, 17th Floor.) https://www.facebook.com/events/164331607413860/ The justice journey for the family of Luis Góngora Pat begins on Monday March 13th, 1:30pm Federal Courthouse Building, ****Courtroom 12, 19th Floor****. This is the federal civil case filed by the family. (Obviously, Gascón has done nothing on the criminal case.)
During the first court date the legal team headed by Adante Pointer from the Law Offices of John Burris will work to set a jury trial date and set a schedule for discovery and other work to be done!
We welcome a strong presence to boost family moral and let the judge and the City know that we’ll be paying VERY CLOSE ATTENTION. Thank you! Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat!
(10/7/2016) Federal Civil Rights and Wrongful Death Lawsuit filed by Góngora Family against SFPD
On October 7, 2016, the 6th month anniversary of the killing of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat, his widow and children (Fidelia Del Carmen May Can; Rosana Guadalupe Góngora May; Luis Rodolfo Góngora May; and Angel De Jesus May) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against his killers, SFPD Sergeant Nate Steger and Officer Michael Mellone.
ESPAÑOL: El 7 de octubre de 2016, en el 6o aniversario de mes del homicidio de Luís Demetrio Góngora Pat, su viuda e hijos (Fidelia Del Carmen May Can; Rosana Guadalupe Góngora May; Luis Rodolfo Góngora May; and Angel De Jesus May) entablaron una demanda federal por violación de su derechos civiles en contra de sus asesinos, el sargento Nate Steger y el oficial Michael Mellone.
More information is available here/ Más detalles están disponibles aquí en inglés: Family of Luis Góngora files a federal civil rights lawsuit against his killers, SFPD Sgt. Steger and Ofc. Mellone…
Please click here to access a copy of the Gongora Family v SFPD Federal Civil Rights Complaint. Copia de la demanda federal por violación a los derechos civiles y homicidio ilegal de Luis se encuentra aquí.
CLAIMANT’S NAMES: Fidelia Del Carmen May Can; Rosana Guadalupe Góngora May; Luis Rodolfo Góngora May; and Angel De Jesus May, co-successors-in-interest for Decedent Luis Góngora Pat.
On June 17, 2016, the family of Luis Góngora Pat filed a complaint against the San Francisco Police Department & the City & County of San Francisco for his unlawful killing.
A complaint is the precursor action to filing a civil case against the City for wrongful death and excessive use of force.
Extract of claim
LAW OFFICES OF JOHN L. BURRIS www.johnburrislaw.com
DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT:
On April 8, 2016, at approximately 10:00 a.m., Decedent Luis Gongora Pat was sitting on the ground, on the the 400 block of Shotwell Street, in San Francisco, California.
City of San Francisco Police Sgt. Nate Steger, Officer Michael Mellone and a third yet-to- be-identifed Officer arrived on the 400 block of Shotwell after someone reported a man with a knife. The three Officers parked their cars in the middle of the street and rapidly approached Mr. Gongora, who was sitting on the ground, by himself, leaning against the exterior wall of a building and minding his own business. There were no civilians in Mr. Gongora’s vicinity and Mr. Gongora was not threatening or harming anyone. While Mr. Gongora is reported to have had a knife on his person for safety reasons; as is common among the homeless population, he was not wanted for any crime and was not a threat to himself or anyone else.
Mr. Gongora spoke Mayan and only understood a limited amount of English and Spanish. Despite the Officers’ claims they gave Mr. Gongora orders to “get on the ground” in both English and Spanish, on the video tape capturing the incident, the Officers can only be heard giving orders in English. Witnesses recount Mr. Gongora remained crouched down on the ground with his head down, cowering in fear, unable to understand what the Officers were shouting.
The Officers quickly closed in on Mr. Gongora, abandoning all recommended de- escalation tactics and failing to maintain adequate distance and space to properly assess the situation and avoid unnecessary force. While Mr. Gongora was sitting on the ground, one of the Officers came up to him and began rapidly discharging a rubber projectile shotgun, striking Mr. Gongora multiple times in the side and back area. After the officers began using force against Mr. Gongora they did not provide any additional commands or give Mr. Gongora the opportunity to comply with their initial orders. Mr. Gongora was injured from multiple rubber projectiles and tried to move away from his attacker, when a second officer began to shoot him with live ammunition. The two Officers were simultaneously pelting Mr. Gongora with lethal and non-lethal rounds from both sides, as he attempted to escape with his life.
The Officer who initially started shooting Mr. Gongora with rubber bullets transitioned to his handgun and began shooting the wounded man with live rounds. In a shocking visual image, the officer can be seen shooting down at the wounded man, with a handgun in one hand and a shotgun in the other, in a scene that is reminiscent of a gangster movie. The double fisted shooter can be seen on video shooting down at Mr. Gongora, who received bullet wounds to the top of his head and another down into his back, in addition to gunshots to both arms and his abdomen. In less than 30 seconds of arriving on scene, Mr. Gongora had been hit with five (5) rubber projectiles and six (6) live rounds.
Tellingly, a third officer was present on scene and did not even unholster his weapon or engage in any force whatsoever.
Mr. Gongora died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, leaving behind three adult children, a wife and an outraged community.