In the aftermath of cops opening fire on a knife-wielding man in a wheelchair, police Chief George Gascón said the latest officer-involved shooting shows why the department needs Tasers.
While Gascón did not flat-out say officers who shot the man in the wheelchair used excessive force, he suggested police would not have to resort to firing their guns if they had a better alternative.
Police tried to subdue the man with a beanbag gun, but it did not work. The man, who police say stabbed an officer earlier in the day, threw a knife after being shot with the beanbag gun.
The beanbag shotgun “is a very ineffective weapon,” Gascón said after Wednesday’s monthly crime-statistics meeting.
He has been pushing for the use of Tasers, but a proposal was shot down by the Police Commission last March.
“We’re planning to present this to the Police Commission again by early February,” Gascón said, adding that last year’s proposal fell short because he underestimated the politics of The City.
Tuesday’s incident was the second officer-involved shooting in as many weeks. On Dec. 28, officers shot and killed Vinh Bui, 46, after he allegedly stabbed a 15-year-old girl with a scalpel.
The chief’s renewed call for Tasers came moments before he admitted the SFPD initially misreported an important aspect of Tuesday’s shooting.
Police had said the man in the wheelchair, who has not been identified, was standing when cops shot him in the groin near the intersection of 10th and Howard streets. Later in the day, police officials corrected their story after video emerged of the incident showing that the man was actually seated in his wheelchair when he was shot.
“We made some earlier statements that were based on the information that we had,” Gascón said.
He said two officers opened fire on the man, including the cop who was stabbed. According to a preliminary investigation, a total of three shots were fired, the chief said.
Both the man and the stabbed officer are expected to survive. The officers are on administrative leave pending an investigation and psychological evaluations, Gascón said.
“I think that from a legal stance, this shooting will be deemed to be an appropriate, lawful shooting,” he said.
Berkeley-based civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said the video “appeared to be very devastating” for police. He said the chief’s decision to explain the video publicly “completely destroyed” the integrity of the investigation.
“They’re supposed to do an independent investigation ... and come to a so-called unbiased conclusion, and here he is on TV trying to explain away the video, saying it doesn’t include the officer’s perspective,” Chanin said.
Where should cops draw line?
Adam Adatepe, 49, Walnut Creek: “They have a tough job and they have to make split-second decisions. Some police officers are probably trigger-happy, but until I’m in that situation I don’t know how I would react. It’s hard to say if they reacted right in the situation.”
Earl Tinsley Cousart, 53, S.F.: “They have to do what they have to do — it’s their lives on the line — but if they shoot in the lower body and not shoot to kill it would probably be better for everyone.”
Victoria Vickers, 34, San Mateo: “I am concerned about the way the cops react in certain situations. I have a 3-year-old, but then again it all depends on where you put yourself. I know I won’t be going to the places or getting myself in the situation where this is happening.”
Kristi Jennings, 35, Oakland: “I think the police should be supported in all situations. We need to have them around.”
Lisa Robinson, 48, Oakland: “I think they’re acting too quickly. I understand they are probably nervous, but they don’t need to be pulling out guns and shooting. I think they should assess the situation, analyze it, before shooting.”
Andres Garcia, 31, Antioch: “I am very concerned [that the police] shot him. I think they should have used force instead of weapons. There are different ways of stopping someone.”